Criminal escapes deportation to Iran, to be persecuted for Christian tattoos on arms

Criminal escapes deportation to Iran, to be persecuted for Christian tattoos on arms

A violent criminal has escaped deportation to Iran by claiming he faces persecution for having himself tattooed with Christian symbols.

The 43-year-old Iranian asylum seeker was jailed for 18 months for assault in 2012 and ordered to leave Britain the following year, but fought his removal by claiming to have converted to Christianity.

Even though a judge rejected the claim and said the former convict was not ‘a credible witness’, the Iranian was given leave to appeal in 2019. The Home Office rejected the appeal, but was unaware of tattoos all over both his arms.

Now immigration tribunal judge Paul Doyle has ruled that, regardless of the man’s faith and whether he had himself tattooed ‘cynically’, the Christian imagery put him at risk of being detained on arrival in Iran, so he must remain in the UK.

Judge Doyle accepted the man would be able to associate with people in Iran without coming to harm and that there was ‘not a real risk that he would come to the adverse attention of the Iranian authorities’ after entering the country, but he would be at risk while passing through Tehran airport.

The Home Office agreed that on his return to Iran he would be asked by airport officials ‘to roll up his sleeves and bare his arms’, and the Christian tattoos made him likely to be detained for ‘further questioning’.

The asylum seeker, whose identity is protected by a court order, arrived in the UK in 2008. He was refused asylum, but continued to live in Britain until he was convicted of the assault in Glasgow.

In a ruling in March, Judge Doyle said: ‘The appellant’s tattoos are extensive. All of the surface of each arm is covered in ink. The tattoos extend across the backs of his hands and to his knuckles.

‘Perhaps the appellant cynically had Christian iconography tattooed on his arms. The reason does not matter.

It is the existence of the tattoos which raises a real risk of persecution because of the treatment the appellant will receive at the airport in Tehran.’ About 800,000 Christians live in Iran, where they risk arrest, detention and persecution for their beliefs.

Tory MP Tim Loughton, who sits on the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said: ‘This is madness and makes a complete mockery of the legal system.

Anybody can go to a tattoo parlour and pay a few quid to have a symbol which magically exempts them from deportation.’ Alp Mehmet, chairman of the Migration Watch think-tank, said: ‘The judge is entitled to his opinion, but this case suggests he has been taken in. The public would be justified in feeling uneasy about what appears a perverse decision that flies in the face of common sense.’

There were 48,540 asylum applications last year, the most since 2003, with just 28 per cent of cases refused. The Home Office did not respond to a request for comment.

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