Liverpool bombing linked to ‘dysfunctional’ asylum system, claims Priti Patel

‘Whole industry’ devoted to defending individuals intent on causing harm, claims home secretary

Adam Forrest
Wednesday 17 November 2021 18:51
Trade secretary denies Priti Patel is 'failing' to sort out migrant crisis

The suspect in the suicide bombing in Liverpool was able to exploit Britain’s “dysfunctional” asylum system to remain in the UK, Priti Patel has said.

The home secretary linked the case to the “complete merry-go-round” of the system, claiming that a “whole industry” was devoted to defending the rights of individuals intent on causing harm.

Emad Al Swealmeen, 32, reportedly arrived from the Middle East in 2014 and had an application for asylum rejected the following year, but remained in the UK.

Al Swealmeen died in the blast in a taxi outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital shortly before 11am on Remembrance Sunday.

According newspaper reports, Ms Patel told reporters on her flight to Washington DC that the case showed why the government was right to reform the asylum system.

“The case in Liverpool was a complete reflection of how dysfunctional, how broken, the system has been in the past, and why I want to bring changes forward,” she was quoted as saying.

Ms Patel said: “It’s a complete merry-go-round and it has been exploited. A whole sort of professional legal services industry has based itself on rights of appeal, going to the courts day-in day-out at the expense of the taxpayers through legal aid. That is effectively what we need to change.”

Speaking on her trip to Washington DC, the cabinet minister added: “These people have come to our country and abused British values, abused the values of the fabric of our country and our society.

“And as a result of that, there’s a whole industry that thinks it’s right to defend these individuals that cause the most appalling crimes against British citizens, devastating their lives, blighting communities – and that is completely wrong.”

Al Swealmeen is thought to have been a Christian convert and reports have claimed that there was growing concern within the Home Office at the role on the Church of England in converting asylum seekers.

Asked about Ms Patel’s comments on Friday, international trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “I trust that her judgement of that situation, and the timeframe in which the bomber in question came to the UK … was at a time when the system didn’t work as effectively as it does now under her leadership.”

However, a couple who took him in after his appeal against the asylum ruling was initially rejected insisted that he had been an “absolutely genuine” Christian with a “real passion for Jesus Christ”.

Malcolm and Elizabeth Hitchcott said they had been contacted by Al Swealmeen in 2017 when he was “desperate” for somewhere to stay.

Mr Hitchcott told BBC Radio Merseyside: “He was absolutely genuine, as far as I could tell. I was in no doubt by the time that he left us at the end of that eight months that he was a Christian.”

The incident has been declared a terrorist attack and the UK terror threat level has since been raised from substantial to severe, meaning an attack is “highly likely” rather than “likely”.

It is understood however that an Islamist plot is one line of inquiry being considered by police although investigators are keeping an open mind and the motivation is yet to be established.

Assistant chief constable Russ Jackson, from Counterterrorism Police North West, previously told journalists the explosive device had been “manufactured” and the force’s assumption was that it was built by Al Swealmeen.

The inquiry is examining, among other possibilities, whether the main charge on the device failed to explode and if the homemade explosive TATP was used.

Searches have been carried out at an address in Rutland Avenue, where detectives said Al Swealmeen was picked up by the taxi, and at a second property in Sutcliffe Street, where officers believe he previously lived.

Four men arrested under terrorism laws in the Kensington area of Liverpool – three aged 21, 26 and 29, who were held on Sunday, and a man aged 20 who was detained on Monday – have now been released from police custody following interviews.

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