Refugee status for atheist on religious grounds

Karen Baxter
the law
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Kent Law Clinic has secured UK asylum for an Afghan citizen for reasons of religion, despite him being an atheist.

This case is believed to be the first of its kind.

The client involved had fled to the UK from a conflict involving his family in Afghanistan and was permitted to remain in the UK until 2013. He was brought up as a Muslim, but since arriving in the UK in 2007 at 16 years old he gradually turned to atheism.

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.

All legal support in the case was provided for free by Kent Law Clinic, which is a pro bono service provided by students and supervised by qualified practising lawyers from the University of Kent’s Law School, with help from local solicitors and barristers.

The case involved the Law Clinic lodging an extensive written submission with the Home Office, 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.

Claire Splawn, a second year law student, prepared the case under the supervision of Clinic Solicitor, Sheona York.

For more information contact Katie Newton.