Hundreds in fear of religious persecution take their case to the House of Lords

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Hundreds of people seeking asylum because of religious persecution have had their cases adjourned pending a House of Lords ruling on the legality of a government policy to refuse them entry to the United Kingdom.

A Roman Catholic teacher from Vietnam and an Ahmadi preacher from Pakistan have both been granted permission to appeal directly to the law lords to overturn the Home Secretary's decision to send them back to their own countries.

Thi Lien Do, 24, a teacher, says she came to the UK in 2000 because she was prevented from teaching children about the Catholic faith in Vietnam. Ahsan Ullah is an Ahmadi preacher who says he will be persecuted for his religious beliefs if he returns to Pakistan.

Both cases are challenges under the Human Rights Act 1998 and are being supported by the civil rights groups Justice and Liberty.

It is understood the cases will be heard together at a hearing next year before a panel of five law lords. Justice's director, Roger Smith, said the House of Lords had granted Justice special permission to intervene in the case of Mr Ullah because it raised important issues about the rights of individuals who are asking for asylum in this country.

Justice and Liberty want to challenge the Government's policy to refuse entry to asylum-seekers who fear persecution because they can't freely practise their respective religions in their own countries.

The case is the latest in a series of human rights challenges over the Government's policies on immigration that have pitted the judiciary against the executive.

Last week, the Court of Appeal overturned a High Court ruling that found the Government had acted illegally by refusing benefits to asylum-seekers who made late claims.

Under the current policy, the Home Secretary only grants asylum to those who can show they are in fear of persecution in their own country under the international convention on refugees. But applicants are also allowed to stay if they can show they will suffer ill-treatment or torture in their own countries. Lawyers for both Miss Do and Mr Ullah argue that the Home Secretary must also consider an applicant's rights to a fair trial or family life, as well as their right to practise their chosen religion.

Liberty's director, Shami Chakrabarti, said the challenge will have "wide implications".