Humanists UK has asked for equal treatment for non-religious asylum seekers in response to a consultation by the Women and Equalities Select Committee. In 13 countries being non-religious is punishable by death under blasphemy and apostasy laws. In over 40 more non-religious people are sent to prison. These laws make equal treatment in the UK asylum system so important.
Humanists UK highlighted structural inequalities in the way that the Home Office interviews, assesses, and determines non-religious cases. The fact that the asylum ground is known as ‘religion’ means that many non-religious people don’t know they can claim under it. And the Home Office often does not treat the non-religious as a distinct belief group with needs that are different to persecuted religious minorities. Often country information guidance is silent on the persecution of the non-religious. This leads to the Home Office wrongly concluding that the non-religious are not at risk.
Humanists UK called for the Home Office to develop guidance on dealing with non-religious claimants. It also said it must review country information guidance to make sure it includes the persecution of the non-religious. And it called for plans to raise the evidence bar for demonstrating persecution to be dropped, as this would disproportionately disadvantage non-religious claimants for the reasons stated above. Finally, the Home Office must ensure that all Afghan resettlement programmes are inclusive of non-religious and apostate refugees alongside those of minority religious groups persecuted by the Taliban.
Humanists UK’s asylum support service has supported over 50 non-religious asylum seekers. Humanists UK has also advocated for improved treatment of non-religious asylum claims. It worked with the Home Office to develop a training course on religion or belief persecution. It also assisted in the roll-out of the training, delivering training to hundreds of caseworkers. And it is a member of the Home Office’s Asylum Equality Stakeholder Group.
Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented,
‘The non-religious are one of the most persecuted belief groups in the world. But they are often treated as an invisible group when it comes to international protection. The Home Office must address where its guidance and policies are either not inclusive or does not consider the non-religious as a distinct belief group. We worked with the Home Office to develop and roll out a training course for asylum caseworkers on religion or belief claims. But much more that needs to be done to ensure equality and fairness within the system.’
For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.
The Committee will publish Humanists UK’s response to the consultation in due course.
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