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Asia Bibi: Asylum

Volume 650: debated on Monday 3 December 2018

Our primary concern is for the safety and security of Asia Bibi and her family, and we welcome a swift resolution to the situation. A number of countries are in discussions about providing a safe destination once the legal process is complete, and it would not be right for me to comment further at this stage.

May I congratulate the Home Secretary on his very brave personal testimony about what happened to him at school years back?

The Catholic Church in England and Wales, and the Catholic Church in Scotland, have both said that they will contribute to secure Asia Bibi’s safety. As I chair the Catholic Legislators Network, will the Home Secretary meet me and other colleagues to discuss the issue?

The hon. Gentleman is right to raise concerns about Asia Bibi, and I am sure that those concerns are shared by all Members of the House. It is not appropriate for me to talk about a particular case, especially if there is a risk that it might put the individual or their family in some kind of further risk, but I assure him that my first concern is the safety of Asia and her family. We are working with a number of countries, and I will do anything I can to keep her safe. I will happily meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss the matter.

Will the Minister meet me to discuss the case of my constituent Mohammed Al-Maily, a Saudi national with indefinite leave to remain who has been told that he is liable for removal from the UK despite living in the UK for 28 years with his wife? The reason the Home Office has stated is that it shredded the archives detailing whom it had granted indefinite leave to remain to, and the Saudi embassy claims to have lost his passport evidencing his right to leave to remain in the UK.

That is what I would describe as illegitimate shoehorning. It is quite common for colleagues to seek to shoehorn into another question their own preoccupation. To do so so nakedly by advertising another case is a trifle cheeky on the part of the hon. Gentleman, but in observation of and tribute to his ingenuity, as well as to his cheek, perhaps the Secretary of State can be allowed to answer.

I appreciate the comments that the Home Secretary has already made about Asia Bibi, but of course there are many, many Christians in Pakistan who live under constant threat of persecution. Will the he work with his Home Office colleagues to make sure that their cases for asylum are treated in a sympathetic manner?

The hon. Lady is quite right to draw attention to that. We believe that there are currently some 40 individuals in Pakistan on death row because of blasphemy offences. That highlights perfectly her concerns. I am sure that the whole House shares those; we will always do what we can to help.