The work of the APPG January – April 2019

Snapshot of Activity

123 APPG Members -­- (new members Mike Kane MP, Afzal Khan MP, Matt Rodda MP and the Bishop of Winchester welcomed).
23 Written Parliamentary Questions tabled on various FORB issues including encouraging HMG to take practical steps to support FORB, such as improving data collection.
15 Oral Questions in HOC and 13 Oral Questions in HOL -­- The APPG Treasurer Jeremy Lefroy MP and APPG Chair Jim Shannon MP asked the Foreign Secretary questions on the persecution of Christians during FCO Questions and Jim Shannon MP raised FoRB issues in the House of Commons on an almost weekly basis through Oral Business Questions. Peers also raised a wide range of issues such as Christian persecution, FORB in China and SDGs in the HOL Chamber.
1 Report produced on Human Rights in Pakistan produced following APPG delegation trip there in Sep 2018. This report will be launched soon.
1 set of policy recommendations for the FCO provided by Jim Shannon MP to the review team carrying out the independent review of the FCO’s work to support persecuted Christians.
1 Public Statement issued encouraging Cuba to strengthen FORB protection in new constitution.
3 Advocacy Letters sent on the issues of forced organ harvesting in China, UNHCR engagement with religious minority refugees in Lebanon and dissolution of Presidential committee on Church affairs in Palestine.
6 Speeches delivered and 8 briefings produced for FoRB related debates and oral questions on issues like education for the most marginalised, the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and FORB in China.
1 Full Parliamentary Debate and 2 Shorter Debates through Oral Questions in HOL – The APPG organised one debate in the House of Commons on allegations of forced live organ extraction of religious prisoners of conscience in China. Members also debated issues surrounding genocide prevention legislation and FoRB in China through oral questions in the House of Lords.
Members and/or Staff had 20+ meetings to gather information/raise FORB concerns including meetings with the PM’s Special Envoy for FORB Lord Ahmad, HO Minister Baroness Williams and then FCO Minister Alistair Burt MP.
Media: The Home Office training on asylum applications made on the grounds of religion or belief, which was developed in conjunction with the APPG and the Asylum Advocacy Group, was mentioned in several newspapers including The Telegraph, the Independent and the Daily Mail, and Baroness Berridge spoke on BBC Radio 4 about this training. Radio 4 also did a piece about APPG debate on organ extraction in China. The Daily Express, the Sunday Express, Forbes and the Guardian also all produced pieces which mentioned the debate. Lord Suri wrote an article on FORB in China for ‘The House’, the Houses of Parliament Magazine.

The following work has been achieved by Members with the support of Stakeholders since Jan 2019:

Home Office
Asylum Training Rolled Out
-­- The APPG has been working with the Asylum Advocacy Group (AAG) and the UK Home Office since publishing its extensive report – Fleeing Persecution: Asylum Claims in the UK on Religious Freedom Grounds – in July 2016. This work led to the development of a specialist training module on religious or belief based claims. This module was delivered to Home Office staff on Monday 8 April. It will be mandatory for all asylum decision-­- makers and will be rolled out fully over the next three months. The course also forms part of the Foundation Training package for all new decision-­-making staff joining Asylum Operations. The need for this training was highlighted by the recent case of an Iranian convert to Christianity whose asylum claim was rejected for spurious reasons. APPG members met with HO Minister Baroness Williams to raise this case and to ensure the timely roll out of the training. Jim Shannon MP will meet with Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes MP in May to discuss training progress.

APPG delegation to Lebanon
-­- 3 APPG members (Afzal Khan, Stephen Gethins and Brendan O’Hara) travelled to Lebanon with Katharine Thane and Aid to the Church in Need to investigate claims that the UN High Commission for Refugees have not been adequately supporting refugees from religious minority communities. The delegation visited UNHCR operations in and around Beirut and had the opportunity to meet with many refugee families through ACN. Following the trip, the APPG produced a follow-­-up letter for the UNHCR citing concerns that many of these refugees have received little to no support from the UNHCR, that differing treatment for different faith groups can exacerbate social divisions and that there appears to be significant communication issues between the UNHCR and some of these minority communities. The delegation also raised these issues with then FCO Minister Alistair Burt MP just before he travelled to Lebanon on behalf of HMG.

UNHCR reversed decision to cease Chin refugee protection -­- In 2018, the UNHCR issued notices in Malaysia and New Delhi respectively that Chin State, Burma was deemed to be stable and secure from a refugee perspective and that therefore there would be a “cessation” of refugee protection for Chin refugees in those cities. Working with the Chin Human Rights Organisation, the APPG produced a letter to the UNHCR highlighting that systematic violations related to FORB are still prevalent in Chin State, including killings, torture and other forms of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. Thankfully, combined international advocacy on this issue has led the UNHCR to reverse its decision.

Evidence session on farmer-­-herder conflict
-­- The APPG continued its inquiry into the ongoing farmer-­-herder conflict in Nigeria and a Parliamentary evidence session was held on Monday April 1st. This session, which explored why casualty figures between farmers and herders are seemingly so disproportionate, welcomed Dr Obadiah Mailafia, recent Nigerian Presidential Candidate and Former Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Serge Stroobants from the Institute of Economics and Peace (who produce the Global Terrorism Index), and Dr Saleh B. Momale, Permanent Commissioner with the Kaduna State Peace Commission. Questions for written submissions to the inquiry have also been drafted and sent out to offer a chance for more organisations to present evidence to the inquiry.

Human Rights Report
based on APPG trip produced – A report highlighting the many human rights challenges facing religious and belief minority groups in Pakistan, and recommendations to address these challenges, has been produced by the APPG in conjunction with the APPG for Pakistani Minorities and Professor Javaid Rehman. This report will be launched soon.

Raised Profile of FoRB violations
-­- APPG members have been consistently raising the issue of FORB in China, particularly highlighting the plight of the Uighur Muslims and the continued persecution of Falun Gong practitioners. Members have organised or participated in several debates on these issues and this persistent awareness raising has led to the issue being picked up in several major media outlets such as the Guardian, the BBC and the Daily Express. On the issue of forced organ extraction, 34 members signed a letter to the Director-­-General of the World Health Organisation requesting that he explain how exactly the WHO has determined that organ donation in China is on a consensual basis.