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‘Westernisation’ can offer reasoning for leave to remain in UK, tribunal rules

By January 25, 2022February 16th, 2022Government, Human Rights, Immigration, People

Westernisation can provide a basis for a claim for leave to remain in the UK in cases where individuals face a pressing chance of persecution, if they are unable to comply with the standards of conservative societies, a tribunal has ordered.

A ‘westernised’ family of five who escaped Iraq in 2006 have successfully won an appeal against the denial of leave on the terms that they would face ‘a real risk of persecution because they are atheists’.

Gaenor Bruce, Upper Tribunal Judge, stated: ‘They do not wish to adhere to conservative Islamic norms because they fundamentally do not agree with them. They should not be expected to do so simply in order to remain safe.’

Bruce highlighted that the Refugee Convention does not issue ‘a protected and unfettered right to enjoy one’s life in the way that one would like: there is no human right to listen to a particular kind of music, drink alcohol or to wear jeans’. Nonetheless, it can provide protection ‘where the modifications required of the claimants amount to suppressions of the inalienable rights afforded to them by international law’, she added.

Westernisation can additionally allow an individual to protection in circumstances where they have been residing in the UK for a lengthy period of time, or if they are unacquainted with the mainstream culture in their country of origin, as there is a chance that their ‘modified behaviour will slip’.

The tribunal were informed that the family, who were all ‘nominally’ Muslim, but have not been practising, formerly lived in an wealthy area of Baghdad, in which their atheism was ‘simply never an issue’.

Bruce however commented, that ‘the Iraq of 2021 is very different from the Iraq that they left’ and alluded to expert evidence proposing that ‘today religion permeates the public space’ and that atheists ‘often keep their views secret’ for worry of harassment, attack or possibly murder.

‘In that context an individual does not have to sell books, or shout on a street corner, to proclaim that he is not a Muslim: his lack of faith is apparent in his everyday actions,’ Bruce noted.

‘[The father] will be regarded with curiosity if he permits his daughters to go out unchaperoned; that curiosity will rise to suspicion if he is never seen at mosque; suspicion would quickly escalate to hostility if the family fail to observe the fasts in Ramadhan or to don black during Muharram; that hostility could, at any time, give rise to persecution if, for instance, the women insist on remaining unveiled or the family’s attitudes lead to them being identified as particularly wealthy.’

She further stated: ‘Although evidence about fashion, or entertainment preferences, appears at first glance to consist of little more than an appeal to pluralism, and thus lying entirely outwith the protection framework, that evidence must be carefully assessed.

‘First, to determine whether the lifestyle choices of the claimant are in fact an expression of  beliefs prohibited or disapproved of in his country of origin. Second, whether there is a real risk of that claimant failing to effectively mask his “western” identity and thus exposing himself to harm.’

The human rights claims of the parents and their youngest child were formerly permitted by consent, as the Home Office acknowledged it would not be appropriate to expect their young child to leave the UK, which led to the acceptance of their two other children’s human rights appeals. 

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