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Home   Kent   News   Article

Kent Law Clinic win asylum seeker's right to stay in UK because he is an atheist

14 January 2014
by KentOnline reporter

Kent legal experts have won a landmark case to allow an atheist to stay in the UK.

The Kent Law Clinic - provided by students of the University of Kent and supervised by practising lawyers - fought the ground-breaking case.

It involved a man who had fled to the UK from a conflict involving his family in Afghanistan.

Canterbury campus of the University of Kent

Canterbury campus of the University of Kent

The unnamed man had been allowed to remain in the UK until last year.

He was brought up as a Muslim, but since arriving in the UK in 2007 at 16 he gradually became an atheist.

The case was submitted to the Home Office amid fears he would face persecution on the grounds of religion – or in this case his lack of religious belief.

The law clinic, which provided a free service, claimed the man could be sentenced to death under Sharia law - unless he remained discreet about his atheist beliefs.

It was claimed that, because every aspect of daily life and culture in Afghanistan is permeated by Islam, living discreetly would be virtually impossible.

Claire Splawn, a second year law student at the University of Kent, prepared the case under the supervision of clinic solicitor Sheona York.

The University of Kent campus in Giles Lane

The University of Kent campus in Giles Lane

She said: "We argued that an atheist should be entitled to protection from persecution on the grounds of their belief in the same way as a religious person is protected."

Sheona York said: 'We are absolutely delighted for our client.

"We also want to welcome the prompt and positive response of the Home Office.

"We believe that this is the first time that a person has been granted asylum in this country on the basis of their atheism" - Sheona York

"We believe that this is the first time that a person has been granted asylum in this country on the basis of their atheism.

"The decision represents an important recognition that a lack of religious belief is in itself a thoughtful and seriously-held philosophical position."

Kent Law Clinic is a partnership between students, academics and solicitors and barristers in practice locally.

The Clinic has been a central part of the work of Kent Law School since the early 1970s.

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