The appellant had been continuously struggling with immigration issues since 2014 when the Home Office falsely accused him of fraudulently taking an ETS TOEIC exam. Despite most of his family living in the UK lawfully, he was not able to regularise his status following the Home Office’s disastrous accusation against him.
As a Jehovah’s Witness, the appellant feared for his life and safety in the event of being returned to his country of nationality, Turkmenistan. This made the Home Office’s repeated refusals of his applications all the more devastating. He therefore sought asylum in the UK with the assistance of Sterling Law.
The Home Office refused his asylum claim due to claimed inconsistencies, not believing that he was a Jehovah’s Witness and also failing to take into account key aspects of his family and private life in the UK.
Sterling Law represented the appellant for his appeal hearing.
The onus was on the appellant to prove that the return to Turkmenistan would result in a real risk of persecution (Art 1A (2) Refugee Convention) or establish substantive grounds of there being a real risk of suffering serious harm or torture, inhuman/degrading treatment or punishment in Turkmenistan contrary to Article 3 of the Human Rights Convention.
After extensive and rigorous cross-examination between the parties, the appellant was found to be a genuine and devout Jehovah’s Witness preaching about the faith to the public.
According to Turkmenistan law all religious groups must be registered with the state in order to practice their religion.
Jehovah’s witnesses have never been granted legal status and their leaders often face severe harassment and imprisonment. As stated by Refworld (2008), ethnic Turkmens who converted to other religions are more targeted by security services and the police than ethnic group members. Religious conversion of ethnic Turkmens is seen as a betrayal to a national identity…To engage in religious activities as a Jehovah’s witness which has no registration in Turkmenistan is against the law on religious organisations and is punished through imprisonment
It was found that the appellant was a genuine Jehovah’s Witness who will practice his religion which requires preaching and spreading the faith. Jehovah’s Witnesses is not a registered religion in Turkmenistan, exposing the appellant to a serious risk on return.
The asylum appeal was allowed and a costs order was awarded.
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