The Home Secretary has agreed to meet the Labour MP Mike Kane to discuss the case of Asia Bibi, the Christian woman recently released from prison in Pakistan after her sentence to death for blasphemy was overturned.
Kane, on behalf of the Catholic Legislators' Network of peers and MPs, which is concerned to ensure the safety of Asia Bibi, asked in the House of Commons today, 3 December, whether the government planned to offer her asylum. He called on the government seriously to consider an asylum claim.
Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, responded that he could not comment on individual cases, but the priority was to ensure that Asia Bibi and her family are safe.
"We are working with other countries to make sure that our prime aim, the safety and security of Asia Bibi and her family, are what is provided for," he said.
SNP MP Carol Monaghan said there are many individuals on death row in Pakistan because of blasphemy offences and asked that all cases are given as much attention as that of Asia Bibi.
John Pontifex, from Aid to the Church in Need (UK), said: “The family of Asia Bibi have repeatedly told me that asylum is urgently needed, saying that extremists have gone from door-to-door in their neighbourhood in search for them. They are in hiding and are very frightened. Because of this, it is vital that the Government hears their pleas for help and acts in due time. The reports we have received about the threats to the family’s safety strongly indicate that any prevarication on this issue could potentially have fatal consequences.”
The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has earlier denied claims she blocked an appeal by the Home Secretary to grant asylum to Asia Bibi.
Bibi, a Catholic, is reportedly facing attacks by lynch mobs who oppose her release. Her family has been seeking asylum in a number of Western countries, but according to a report in the Daily Mail Mrs May refused her appeal on the grounds that offering her asylum in the UK could endanger British officials in Islamabad.
During Prime Minister’s Questions last Wednesday Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith asked Mrs May if this was the case. She told him Britain was working for the safety and security of Bibi and her family.
“We want to see a swift resolution of the situation,” the Prime Minister said. “Obviously, there is a primary function for the courts and Government in Pakistan. The Prime Minister, Imran Khan, has publicly supported the Supreme Court and has promised to uphold the rule of law, while providing continued protection for Asia Bibi. We could approach this in two ways. We could go out there and say something, just to show that the UK is doing that, or we could ask what is right for Asia Bibi. We are working with others in the international community and with the Pakistani Government to ensure that our prime aim—the safety and security of Asia Bibi and her family—is provided for.”