Christian asylum seekers denied entry to UK if they cannot recite ten commandments
Christian asylum seekers are being rejected from the UK if they cannot recite all ten commandments.
This was among a number of other revelations made in a report by a group of MPs into how refugees' religious claims are assessed. The allegations come after thousands of Muslim migrants and refugees are said to have converted to Christianity after they fled the Middle East.
The all-party parliamentary group for international freedom of religion and belief said immigration officials lack a basic understanding of religion and so questions intended to judge the genuineness of someone's faith revolve around trivia rather than probing what an individual actually believes.
Katherine Thane, the operations director for the parliamentary group, told Christian Today the religious illiteracy among Home Office staff did not just affect Christians but other faiths including Ahmadi Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs.
One asylum seeker said he was asked what colour a Bible was in his interview for asylum in the UK. Mohammed, an Iranian Christian convert, told the BBC: "I knew there were different colours. The one I had was red. They asked me questions I was not able to answer - for example, what are the Ten Commandments. I could not name them all from memory."
Mohammed is now fighting to stay in the UK after his claim for asylum was refused.
"The problem with those questions is that if you are not genuine you can learn the answers, and if you are genuine, you may not know the answers," said Baroness Berridge, the head of the parliamentary group behind the report.
"When the system did move on to ask about the lived reality of people's faith, we then found that caseworkers, who are making decisions which can be life or death for people, were not properly supported and trained properly."
When an asylum seeker arrives in the UK they must have an interview to assess whether their account is deemed likely. A caseworker assigned does not have to be certain of every detail and for religious questions, they are only expected to answer basic knowledge questions, according to Home Office guidance.
Rev Mark Miller, a vicar of a large Iranian congregation in Stockton-on-Tees, advises the Home Office on how to assess claims of religious conversion. He admitted the caseworkers have "a real challenge on their hands".
He told the BBC: "If you've come to faith in an underground house church, where you've been able to borrow a New Testament for a week and have encountered the risen Lord Jesus, you're not going to know when the date of Pentecost is.
"They should be trying to understand the difference between head knowledge and heart knowledge," he said.
"They should be asking questions that help them to understand why someone has left behind the faith of their upbringing and the faith of their family."