Hamza has finally been granted asylum – after humanists rallied to save his life

15 May, 2019

Hamza with former Humanists UK president Shappi Khorsandi

A Pakistani humanist who received death threats from his family after renouncing Islam, and whose original asylum claim was rejected by the Home Office because he didn’t identify Plato and Aristotle as humanists, has been granted asylum in the UK.

Humanists UK member Hamza bin Walayat applied for asylum on the grounds that he would face persecution if he was forced to return to Pakistan. Non-religious people, including humanists, face severe persecution there, where blasphemy is punishable by death. His story has been covered by The Times newspaper today, ‘Asylum at last for humanist who did not know his Plato’ .

Humanists UK delivered a petition with more than 12,500 signatures to the Home Secretary Amber Rudd last year and co-organised a joint letter signed by more than 150 philosophers in support of Hamza after the Home Office denied his asylum case. The Home Office’s decision found Hamza was not ‘genuine’ because he failed to recognise historic ancient philosophers including Plato and Aristotle as humanists, even though as Humanists UK pointed out, both philosophers were, in fact, religious.

This deeply flawed understanding of humanism in the Home Office’s assessment of asylum seekers led to Humanists UK calling for the Home Office to educate officials about humanism. The intervention from Humanists UK prompted the introduction of compulsory training on humanist asylum claims for all relevant Home Office staff which is expected to roll out very soon.

Humanists UK also intervened directly in support of Hamza’s case, including providing evidence on the persecution and violence faced by humanists in Pakistan and the philosophical variations on the understanding of humanism.

While waiting on his asylum decision, Hamza completed his non-religious pastoral care training with Humanists UK and hopes to volunteer within the NHS.

Hamza bin Walayat said:

‘I am delighted that my application for asylum has finally been granted after years of living with uncertainty and constant stress. I have believed in humanist values since I was a child but as I grew up I realised how dangerous it was to share those views in a place like Pakistan.

‘I am extremely grateful for all the support I received from Humanists UK and their supporters who fought hard for me along with the work of my lawyers. I have also been amazed by the wider changes to asylum assessment that my case has brought about. I’m now looking forward to feeling more settled and getting on with my life.’

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:

‘Humanists and non-religious people are some of the most viciously persecuted people in the world. Not believing in religion in a country like Pakistan is often a death sentence. Hamza’s original assessment was fundamentally flawed in its understanding of humanism and we are overjoyed that common sense has prevailed and it has been overturned.

‘We can breathe a sigh of relief for Hamza, but we remain seriously concerned that other genuine non-religious claimants will have their lives jeopardised if their claims are not taken seriously by the Home Office. We will continue working hard to ensure compulsory training on humanist asylum claims is delivered to Home Office staff in the very near future.’

Jamie Bell of Duncan Lewis Solicitors, who represented Hamza in his claim for asylum, said:

We are delighted that our client Hamza Bin Walayat has finally been granted refugee status. Hamza is a passionate and committed humanist activist who would be persecuted for his beliefs if he was returned. After having his heartfelt beliefs questioned by an asylum system that couldn’t comprehend him, the humanist community rallied around him. We are grateful for all of the support from them that led to this fantastic result.

A Home Office spokesperson said:

We are committed to improving the quality and accuracy of decision-making to ensure we get decisions right the first time.

‘The Home Office is working closely with members of the APPG for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, as well representatives from a range of faith and belief groups, to provide specialist mandatory training. The aim of this is to ensure decision makers appropriately consider all the available evidence where religion or belief is raised in an asylum claim.’


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3078 or 07393 344293.

Hamza’s application for asylum was initially rejected by the Home Office in late 2017, leading to publicity around the reasoning in early 2018. He appealed the decision to the First Tier Immigration Tribunal but the decision was not overturned. He then put in a fresh application for asylum which has now been granted.

Humanists UK campaigns against blasphemy and apostasy laws around the world. It also supports UK-based apostates who have left high-control religions through its Faith to Faithless programme, and has for the past year been working with the Home Office on its new training on freedom of religion or belief for all asylum assessors.

Read more about Hamza’s case: https://humanists.uk/2018/01/17/home-office-tells-humanist-hell-be-deported-for-not-identifying-plato-or-aristotle/

See our petition on Hamza: https://humanists.uk/what-you-can-do-to-help/tell-amber-rudd-save-hamza-dont-deport-him/

Read more about our international campaigns: https://humanists.uk/campaigns/international-campaigns/

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

Humanists are people who shape their own lives in the here and now, because we believe it’s the only life we have. We make sense of the world through logic, reason, and evidence, and always seek to treat those around us with warmth, understanding, and respect.