The archbishop of Canterbury has intervened in an attempt to prevent an Iraqi Christian who fled Islamic State jihadis from being returned to his home country.
wrote a letter in support of the man ahead of an appeal against his
rejected asylum claim, saying he supported his application to remain in
Last week, a second letter was sent by the archbishop’s interfaith
adviser, Mark Poulson, “unequivocally endors[ing]” an appeal for asylum
by the man, who met him and the archbishop while working as a volunteer.
The man has already had two appeals against his rejected asylum
application turned down and is seeking permission for a third appeal. He
was told earlier this month to report to a Home Office centre every
fortnight or risk being held in a detention centre.
In his letter, dated 28 September, Welby said he had “been
impressed with his positive attitude, integrity, and the quality of his
He added: “[The man] is clearly someone who wishes to contribute to
society ... He is someone who would be a great asset to the United
Kingdom. I strongly endorse [his] desire to seek asylum in the UK.”
The man, a Syriac Orthodox Christian, said Welby had offered to write the letter.
He and his immediate family fled their home in the Iraqi city of
Mosul in August 2014 after Islamic State jihadis seized control of the
area. They were among more than 100,000 Christians and Yazidis who fled
north to the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan after Isis fighters
threatened to kill any non-Sunni who remained in the city or the
surrounding Nineveh Plains.
The man came to Britain on a student visa and applied for asylum when
it expired in May 2015. His family spent a year living in a church
basement in Irbil, along with other displaced people.
his letter, Poulson said: “We have been extremely impressed with his …
willingness to spend time helping others whilst his own situation is so
In dismissing the man’s second appeal in October, judge Clive Lane
agreed with the previous ruling that the appellant would be able to join
his family, who “appear to live in safety” in Irbil. The man’s
solicitor, Susan Liew, in seeking permission to appeal against Lane’s
ruling, said it was “erroneous, perverse and irrational” to believe he
could be relocated to Kurdistan given that his family are still forced
to live in a church basement.
The man told the Guardian: “I feel safe in Britain. I can’t go back
to Kurdistan, it’s a different government, it’s not our country. They
don’t deal with us like people from the same place. It’s a different
language.” He said he did not speak Kurdish and his degree would not
recognised in Kurdistan.
He added that no Christian could return to Mosul at present because
sympathy for Isis and intolerant ideology remained, despite military
victories against the jihadis. He said it was impossible to know who the
sympathisers were. “Maybe it’s your neighbour, maybe it’s someone in
the next street,” he said.
He has twice met the Prince of Wales, at events at which the prince
has expressed concerns for Middle Eastern Christians. The prince has
said it was “an indescribable tragedy” that Christians were facing
extinction in their historic homeland because of worsening Islamist
Archbishop Welby has repeatedly voiced concern for Iraqi Christians
since Isis expelled centuries-old Christian communities in 2014, and has
urged the government to offer them refuge. However, three months later
he suggested that offering asylum on a large scale could “drain” the
Middle East of its Christians, and said that except “in extreme
circumstances”, he favoured the creation of safe havens in the region.
Lambeth Palace declined to comment.