IT’S a long time since anyone described the Church of England as the “Conservative Party at prayer”.
Nowadays, it is more like the Refugee Council has seized the pulpits.
You might think church leaders would be embarrassed that Abdul Ezedi, the suspect in the chemical attack on a mother and her children in London last week, turns out to have been granted asylum in the UK partly on the basis of a testimony from a priest who described him as “wholly committed” in his apparent conversion to Christianity.
That came as news to Ezedi’s friends, who continued to describe him as a “good Muslim” who bought half a halal sheep every fortnight.
Ezedi, it transpires, was also a convicted sex offender and was granted asylum in spite of that.
But if you are hoping for an apology from the church you might have to wait a long time.
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Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, the Bishop of Chelmsford, in Essex, wrote this week that the church needs to make “no apology for our involvement in supporting people who are often deeply vulnerable and traumatised”.
That the church can allow itself to be hoodwinked by people claiming to convert to Christianity is extremely concerning
The bishop, who herself came to the UK after the Iranian revolution, added: “The notion that a person may be fast-tracked through the asylum system aided and abetted by the church is simply inaccurate.”
The Church of England does not actually make asylum decisions, of course.
The Home Office does that, or, in the case of applicants who have been refused first time around, an immigration tribunal.
But clearly a glowing reference from a Church of England priest is going to have a huge influence.
That the church can allow itself to be hoodwinked by people claiming to convert to Christianity is extremely concerning.
The case of Ezedi is no one-off.
Emad al Swealmeen, who blew himself up outside a Liverpool hospital on Remembrance Sunday in 2021 — fortunately killing only himself — had tried the same wheeze, joining a course at Liverpool Cathedral and eventually getting himself confirmed, all the while continuing to attend a mosque.
This week it emerged that 40 of the asylum seekers living on board the Bibby Stockholm barge in Portland Harbour, Dorset, are seeking to convert to Christianity.
Either the Church of England has somehow managed to develop a pull which is not otherwise immediately obvious when surveying its largely empty pews or, as former Home Secretary Suella Braverman put it, churches have allowed themselves unwittingly to facilitate “industrial-scale bogus asylum claims”.
It is charming, in a way, that priests want to see the best in everyone. But there is a thin line between that and outright naivety.
It is not just the Church of England that is guilty of this though.
The whole asylum system seems to have fallen under the influence of a ragbag of charities, advocacy groups and lawyers who refuse to believe any asylum seeker ever told a lie to play the system.
Neither will they accept that criminals and terrorists have routinely used the asylum system for their own purposes, in spite of cases like that of the Liverpool bomber.
Rather, they try to make out that everyone who applies for asylum in Britain is “desperate” — and that the only evil people are those who try to stand in asylum seekers’ way.
Needless to say, the whole business is funded by large sums of public money — £37million was paid out in legal aid for asylum claims in 2022/23.
That is not to mention the £3.7billion we spent housing asylum seekers in 2022.
The people who lose out from bogus asylum cases are genuine refugees.
Every pound UK taxpayers spend on hospitality for an economic migrant falsely claiming to be on the run from persecution is taking a pound away from Britain’s effort to help people who really are desperate, many of whom lack the resources to pay people traffickers to get them to Britain.
The whole refugee issue has become fixated on people crossing the Channel from France, travelling from one safe country to another.
Yet to help the greatest number of people we need to be focusing on those who are a long way from the UK.
Most refugees fleeing from Assad’s brutal war on his own people in Syria, for example, never make it out of the country.
If you are a refugee genuinely fleeing from Assad, or from civil war in Somalia, you would be relieved to be offered a safe home in Rwanda.
So why do our bishops continue to make out that it is inhumane to set people up with a new future there?
Cheat the system
Church leaders may think they are being moral when they condemn Government policy on illegal migration and when they speak up for asylum applicants who have come to their churches feigning a desire to convert to Christianity.
But there is nothing ethical in sheltering people that a few inquiries about would indicate are trying to cheat the asylum system — and who in some cases are criminals and terrorists exploiting our asylum system.
But there is nothing ethical in sheltering people that a few inquiries about would indicate are trying to cheat the asylum system
Britain has a proud history in offering asylum, whether to Huguenots in the Middle Ages, Jews fleeing from Hitler or Soviet dissidents on the run from communism.
We have sheltered Vietnamese fleeing from Pol Pot, Ukrainians escaping the Russian invasion of their own country, Afghan interpreters fleeing the Taliban, all with warm public support.
How sad that that support has been put at risk by mass abuse of the asylum system, aided an abetted by church leaders and other do-gooders.
Everything we know about Ezedi
What were Ezedi’s last known movements?
Manhunt cops say Ezedi’s car was seen in Newcastle at quarter past midnight on Wednesday.
By 6.30am the car was seen travelling into Tooting, south west London.
A further sighting of his car was confirmed in Croydon at 4.30pm and Ezedi was seen driving in Streatham at 7pm.
The attack on a 31-year-old woman, and her daughters, aged three and eight, took place in Lessar Avenue in Clapham at 7.25pm that night.
The mum is believed to be known to Ezedi, cops said.
Ezedi made off in his car but it crashed nearby. He then left the vehicle and ran off.
At 7.33pm Ezedi boarded a Northern line train at Clapham South Tube station.
Ezedi got off at King’s Cross just before 8pm.
He was seen on CCTV leaving a Tesco Express at 21 Caledonian Road, near King’s Cross, and turning right.
The suspect had significant facial injuries and is believed to have bought a bottle of water.
Ezedi re-entered King’s Cross Tube station at 9pm and boarded a southbound Victoria line train.
The latest confirmed sighting of Ezedi is now on Southwark Bridge at 9.47pm on Wednesday.
The suspect has not been seen since.
Does Ezedi have a criminal record?
Ezedi was convicted of a sexual offence in 2018 and given a suspended sentence at Newcastle Crown Court.
The Crown Prosecution Service confirmed he was sentenced on January 9 of that year after pleading guilty to one charge of sexual assault and one of exposure.
He was put on the Sex Offenders Register for 10 years.
Why was Ezedi given asylum in the UK?
Ezedi was granted asylum in 2020 on his third attempt – after he was convicted of the sex offence.
He reportedly arrived in the UK on the back of a lorry in 2016 and claimed to have converted to Christianity to back up his asylum bid.
A priest told the Telegraph that Ezedi had converted to Christianity and was “wholly committed” to his new religion.
What happened to Ezedi’s face?
CCTV from Wednesday night shows Ezedi with what police have described as very “significant injuries to the right side of his face”.
Met Police Commander Jon Savell addressed him directly, saying: “Abdul, you clearly have got some very significant injuries.
“We’ve seen the images. You need some medical help, so do the right thing and hand yourself in.”