Egyptian Coptics

Danielle Cohen
By Danielle Cohen Immigration Law Solicitor Linkedin
Danielle Cohen has over 20 years of experience as a lawyer and a reputation for offering professional, honest and expert advice.
15 July 2014

The Appellant was a citizen of Egypt and appealed under section 82(1) of the Nationality Immigration & Asylum Act 2002 against a decision of the said Respondent, The Secretary of State, made on the 27th January 2014 to remove him from the UK and to refuse to grant him asylum. The Appellant claimed asylum upon arrival and the basis of his claim related to his fear of persecution and or treatment in breach of his protected human rights in Egypt on the basis of his religion being a Coptic Orthodox Christian . The factual basis which gave rise to the Appellant’s claim for international protection was set in the answers he gave at his full asylum interview together with representations we submitted on his behalf soon afterwards. In essence he claims that he has been targeted for ill-treatment by an influential Imam and has been the victim of a number of specific incidents of serious harassment which culminated in an attempt to run him over with a vehicle, which resulted in the death of an innocent by-stander.

In light of that incident together with previous episodes of harassment and assault which the Appellant states he was a victim of he decided to leave Egypt altogether and made a valid visit visa for the UK in order to do so departing from the country on 15th January 2014 and claiming asylum upon arrival. He claimed that he has been specifically targeted by the Imam because he is a Coptic Christian the Imam has sufficient prominence and influence to be able to identify him in any part of Egypt. On that basis therefore the Appellant asserted his entitlement to refugee status and or protection under the European Convention. In addition to his oral evidence he relied on documentary evidence provided in part at the interview and also in the appeal bundle together with an expert report from Mr Joffe. The position of the Respondent was that the Appellant’s identity and nationality were accepted and the Respondent was satisfied that he was a Coptic Christian and has been threatened by the Imam. It was also reported that the police were informed on two occasions, however, the Secretary of State did not accept that the Appellant’s dog had been killed by the Imam’s men or that his car had been torched by the men or that he was threatened. It was not accepted that he was attacked and detained or that the Salafi’s tried to run him over in a vehicle. The Respondent concluded the Appellant would be able to return to a city such as Cairo or Alexandria without being at real risk of persecution or ill-treatment in breach of human rights. In terms of these disputed events, the Respondent asserted that the Appellant was very vague in identifying who he was being targeted by. The Immigration Judge considered the all the evidence at length and in his judgement the Appellant’s evidence was generally internally consistent in terms of the account of the events in the interview and in the oral evidence. Although there were some discrepancies in dates when these events occurred the Appellant has always been consistent in terms of the order in which they occurred and their basic details. Furthermore his evidence regarding these events is also supported by documentary evidence which he produced following the challenge of it in the refusal letter and in his opinion, the Judge found that the documents added weight to his account.

In MS (Coptic Christians) (Egypt) the Upper Tribunal considered the position of Coptic Christians in Egypt and gave guidance. In terms of MS the Appellant accepts that he does not come within one of the categories of a person at risk as identified in paragraph 3 of this determination. However, it does comply with paragraph 7 in the sense that he is an individual who has been specifically targeted for attacks because of his Christian religion. On the basis of the Judge’s findings regarding the serious ill-treatment he had suffered at the hands of Imam Hassan, both in Alabourct and in Aldaghalia he accepted the submissions and on that basis was satisfied that he would be at risk of persecution or ill-treatment in breach of Article 2 and or 3 ECHR.

The Respondent asserted that irrespective of the risks to him in his home area he could relocate to a larger city. The obvious place where he might relocate is Cairo where his family members reside and in his evidence he stated that his wife was also living with his family there. However, in his report Mr Joffe noted that the Appellant is a committed Christian, has a cross tattooed on his wrist which makes him immediately identifiable as a Copt. If he went to live with his family he would also have to register his new address with the local policy bureau, with the local administration officials and the details are registered on an integrated computer system accessible by the Security authorities. Thus for a person who has access to the system it is possible to locate individuals with considerable accuracy. The Appellant could not therefore secure his situation through anonymity in from potentially hostile individual who gained access to the monitoring system could easily locate where he was. Given the widespread sympathy for Salafism now, typical of the mass of Egyptians, it would be easy for such a group to support the security authorities to gain access, either directly or indirectly, to this monitoring system and thus identify the Appellant’s new location.

His appeal was allowed under the Refugee Convention and also under Article 2 and 3.