UK: Country guidance on risk of return to Iran in the event of conversion to Christianity

Thursday, February 20, 2020

On 20 February 2020, the Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) published its judgment in the case of PS (Iran) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2020] UKUT 46 (IAC) concerning the potential risk of persecution due to conversion to Christianity in the event of return to Iran. 

The applicant made an application for asylum after arriving in the UK from Iran in 2013 due to his fear of persecution for his imputed political opinion. The request was rejected. In May 2015, the applicant began attending the Coverdale Christian Church in Manchester and was later baptized. He subsequently made a new asylum claim based on his conversion to Christianity. The First Tier Tribunal found that, due to the applicant’s superficial knowledge of the religion and the haste of his baptism, that his conversion had not been genuine.

The Upper Tribunal found, inter alia, that the applicant had no prior connection with any persons of interest in Iran. It added that while the Iranian authorities would be aware of his claim for asylum due to the need for special travel documents to return to his country of origin, he would likely only be required to sign an undertaking promising that he would not undertake Christian activities. The Upper Tribunal therefore concluded that while the applicant may be placed under surveillance and questioned, he would face a negligible risk in the event of return and would not be of special interest to the authorities.

The Upper Tribunal also provide updated country guidance applicable to international protection claims from Iranians found to have made a genuine conversion to Christianity. It observed, inter alia, that Christians face entrenched discrimination in Iran and an increased likelihood of arrest, prosecution and imprisonment. It adds that while arrest figures are not exact, those perceived to be leaders or Christian activists face an added risk of harm. Indeed, those practicing Christianity may do so largely in the private confines of their own home in order to avoid arrest. As such, an effective ban on collective worship amounts to a severe violation of religious freedom and may amount to persecution due to the harm that must be suffered in pursuit of enjoying such a right.

This item was reproduced with the permission of ECRE from the ELENA Weekly Legal Update. The purpose of these updates is to inform asylum lawyers and legal organizations supporting asylum seekers and refugees of recent developments in the field of asylum law. Please note that the information provided is taken from publicly available information on the internet. Every reasonable effort is made to make the content accurate and up to date at the time each item is pusexblished but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by ECRE.                                                



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