Iranian told he cannot stay in UK

Today's Community Church
Today's Community Church

A former Wigan church worshipper has been told his bid to avoid deportation to Iran - on the grounds of his Christian faith - has not succeeded.

Supporters said the Iranian man had attended services at Today’s Community Church near Wigan Pier for a number of weeks in early 2016.

And the minister, Farzam Moazzeny, had sent a letter of support to an immigration tribunal, outlining how the man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had also started the Alpha Course, to explore his Christian beliefs.

Another witness, an elder of the North Iranian Church in London, gave similar backing to the man, saying he had also attended services there, the tribunal heard.

But a deputy upper tribunal judge has ruled that there was only limited evidence of the asylum seeker’s church activities.

And he agreed that the Iranian’s dedication to his new-found faith could be described as “lacklustre and vague”.

The asylum seeker’s case was first rejected by a first-tier immigration panel and an appeal has now also been dismissed by the higher court.

Born in Iran to a Muslim family in August 1995, the asylum-seeker referred to only as AT, saw his parents convert to Christianity around two years before he left his home country in 2015.

He claimed he had attended a Christian church three times before his departure. But shortly before he left he said his parents were arrested, along with the rest of the congregation, at their church. He is said to have fled the country with the assistance of his uncle, in the back of the truck, before arriving in the UK.

His lawyers claimed if he was forced to return to Iran he would face persecution by the authorities.

But AT’s first bid for asylum was turned down as a judge felt his answers to questions about the Bible and Jesus were vague, and he claimed Christians accepted Mohammed as a prophet. No-one had also attended the hearing in person to support his assertions.

Nesa Ostadsaffar, representing AT, said he should not be expected to lie, if returned to Iran, about his conversion to Christianity.

She argued that even an attempt at conversion, however genuine, would place her client in jeopardy if he was to be returned.

Rejecting the appeal though Francis Sheridan, a deputy upper tribunal judge, said a range of reasons were given for not believing AT had genuinely converted, which if taken together would be enough to dismiss the claim.

He also observed that the Wigan church acknowledged they “knew little about” AT and the letter from the North London congregation was not even submitted on headed notepaper.

The judge added: “(AT) cannot be expected to lie upon return to Iran but if, as the judge found, he is not a Christian, then denying he has converted to Christianity would not be a lie.”