Bishop Guli calls for safe legal route for Iranians fleeing persecution for faith

Bishop Guli calls for safe legal route for Iranians fleeing persecution for faith

British-Iranian bishop Guli Francis-Dehqani has called on the UK government to consider offering a “safe-route scheme” for Iranians fleeing persecution on account of their faith.

In an oral question at the UK House of Lords this afternoon, Bishop Guli cited Article18’s annual report as she referenced the “increasing involvement” of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) “in the crackdown against peaceful Christian activities in Iran”.

“Other religious minorities and peaceful protesters also report violent treatment during arrest and detention, as well as the interference of the IRGC’s intelligence branch in court proceedings to ensure harsher sentences against those who are accused,” the bishop added. 

Bishop Guli said she “absolutely agree[d]” with those Lords calling for the IRGC to be proscribed as a terrorist group, and asked whether the government would also “consider offering a safe-route scheme for those from Iran who have suffered persecution in the form of arrest and imprisonment on account of their faith?”

In response, the Under Secretary of State for the UK Home Office, Lord Sharpe, assured Bishop Guli that her views would be “taken back”, and added that the incoming “national-security bill” would “provide another significant toolkit in the fight against individuals working for state entities like the IRGC in this country” by “criminalis[ing] a wide range of hostile activities”.

Several UK peers queried why the UK had yet to proscribe the IRGC, despite persistent calls for the group to be recognised as a terrorist entity, but Lord Sharpe said he could not comment, in line with the UK Home Office’s “long-standing policy of not commenting externally on prescription matters”, in order “to avoid creating expectations that the government will proscribe certain organisations; to reduce the risk that an organisation will take evasive action before any potential prescription order comes into force; to manage the risk that subsequent decisions are vulnerable to challenge on procedural grounds, and so on and so forth.”

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