Join us for a panel discussion exploring the rise in non-religious persecution abroad, the experience of apostates in the UK asylum process, and steps currently being undertaken by the Home Office to improve awareness and understanding of the persecution of the non-religious.
There are 85 countries around the globe where the non-religious face severe discrimination because of their beliefs. 13 of which still maintain the death penalty for the crimes of apostasy and blasphemy. In the last five years, there has been a significant increase in vigilante attacks and state-sanctioned persecution of non-religious individuals in a number of countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
The UK is a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Convention on Refugees. This entitles those who have a ‘well-founded fear’ of persecution on the grounds of religion (understood to include non-religious belief) to claim asylum in the UK.
Tara Byrne is a Trainer in the Asylum Operations Team at the Home Office. She has been leading on creating a new religion and belief training course for all asylum assessors within the Home Office. This training is due to be rolled out this year.
Shawon Syed Isteak Hossain is a political activist and Editor in Chief of Boys Love World, a Bangladesh LGBT magazine. He has been an outspoken proponent of secular and LGBT rights in Bangladesh and is currently seeking asylum in the UK.
Ana Gonzalez is a partner in Wilsons Immigration Solicitors LLP. She is a practising solicitor who has extensive experience in representing vulnerable and marginalised groups, including apostates and those from the LGBT community.
Hamza bin Walayat is an ex-Muslim who claimed asylum in the UK after receiving death threats from his family in Pakistan. If returned to Pakistan, he could face the death penalty for blasphemy. Hamza’s application for asylum was rejected in part because he asked inappropriate questions at his asylum interview, including being asked to name Plato and Aristotle as humanist authors, when neither were in fact humanists.
Rachel Taggart-Ryan is the Campaigns Officer at Humanists UK who leads on the charity’s asylum support services. Over the past 18 months, she has provided support for dozens of individuals who are seeking asylum in the UK due to their non-religious beliefs or apostasy, and has advocated for better training for Home Office asylum assessors on these issues.
Faith to Faithless was set up in 2015 to raise awareness of apostasy and is now part of the national charity, Humanists UK. The organisation works with ex-Muslims, ex-Jehovah's Witnesses, ex-evangelical Christians, ex-ultra-Orthodox Jews and others
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