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Afghan atheist gets rare asylum in UK

An Afghan who was raised a Muslim and turned atheist after fleeing to Britain in 2007 aged 16, has been granted asylum here on the ground that his lack of religious beliefs puts his life in danger if he returns to the trouble-torn country.

world Updated: Jan 16, 2014 17:16 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar

An Afghan who was raised a Muslim and turned atheist after fleeing to Britain in 2007 aged 16, has been granted asylum here on the ground that his lack of religious beliefs puts his life in danger if he returns to the trouble-torn country.



This is believed to the first case of its kind granted by the Home Office, which would not comment on individual cases, but said: “The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need it and we consider every application on a case by case basis.”



The unnamed Afghan’s case was taken by Kent Law Clinic (KLC), which is a pro bono service provided by students and supervised by qualified practising lawyers from the University of Kent’s Law School. All legal support was provided free.



The Afghan fled to Britain from conflict involving his family in Afghanistan and was permitted to remain here until 2013.



The case was submitted to the Home Office under the 1951 Refugee Convention on the basis that if the client returned to Afghanistan he would face persecution on the grounds of religion – or in this case his lack of religious belief, the KLC said.



The case involved extensive written submission, drawing on recent Supreme Court decisions, and including detailed evidence that a return to Afghanistan by the client could result in a death sentence under Sharia law as an ‘apostate’ - unless he remained discreet about his atheist beliefs.



“Evidence also showed that because every aspect of daily life and culture in Afghanistan is permeated by Islam, living discreetly would be virtually impossible”, the KLC said.



Claire Splawn, a second year law student who prepared the case, said: “We argued that an atheist should be entitled to protection from persecution on the grounds of their belief in the same way as a religious person is protected.”