Refugees applying for asylum in Britain based on a claim that they have converted to Christianity and face religious persecution are being grilled by immigration officials on their knowledge of the Bible, Britain's Guardian news website has reported, citing findings contained in a report released on Tuesday that was prepared by an unofficial group of British members of parliament.
Refugees have been asked, for example, what the Ten Commandments are and how many books there are in Bible, the Guardian reported, and refugees who don't answer the questions correctly are being denied asylum in the United Kingdom.
"Refugees seeking asylum on the grounds of religious persecution include Muslim converts to Christianity, Ahmadiyya Muslims, Hindus and people of other faiths or no faith," the Guardian noted.
Speaking at the event at which the parliament members' report was released, Exeter University law professor Geoff Gilbert said persecution was easy to identify when victims are subjected to physical violence, but persecution for practicing one's religion or for having no religion is harder to prove, the Guardian reported. “It’s important that religion is not ignored as grounds [for asylum] because it’s a difficult issue,” he said.
"The number of individuals seeking asylum on the grounds of religious persecution is not going to diminish in the coming years,” the report states, and the quizzing the asylum seekers are being subjected to "fails to reflect the 'inherently internal and personal nature of religion and belief.'”
The Guardian also reported that Elizabeth Berridge, the member of the House of Lords who chaired the parliamentary group, acknowledged that the government officials handling the asylum claims are trying to make “incredibly nuanced and difficult decisions to make sure that genuine claims are accepted and non-genuine ones are rejected”.
For his part, however, Rev. Mark Miller, who heads a congregation of Iranian converts to Christianity, told the Independent news website that many of his congregants' initial exposure to their new religion came in secret meetings in private homes, and they sometimes had limited access to religious materials. He cautioned that officials "should be trying to understand the difference between head knowledge and heart knowledge."