Pressure mounts on PM to offer asylum to Asia Bibi

The Prime Minister continues to face growing pressure to grant asylum to Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian recently released from prison after eight years on death row under the country’s controversial blasphemy laws.

The SNP has called on the UK government to urgently intervene and grant unconditional asylum to Asia Bibi and her family, warning that further inaction would be an “abdication of its moral responsibility.”

In a letter to the Prime Minister from Carol Monaghan MP, co-signed by SNP MPs, Theresa May is urged to follow the example set by nations including Canada, Spain and France who have reportedly offered Asia and her family asylum. Since her release, she has gone into protective custody with her family and her lawyer has fled the country in fear.

As reported in the Guardian, the UK government has declined to answer questions about whether it is considering an offer of asylum, saying it does not want to further endanger Bibi and her family. The former foreign secretary Boris Johnson and many other MPs and peers have called for the UK government to act.

Some reports have suggested that the government fears a backlash among British Muslims of Pakistani heritage if it offers Bibi asylum, however, the Muslim Council of Britain said in a tweet: “There are unfounded media reports that Pakistani national Asia Bibi is being denied asylum into the UK because of concerns from British Muslims. We find such insinuations to be as nonsensical as they are divisive. We see no reason why Asia Bibi should be denied asylum into the UK.”

Bibi, a farm labourer, was accused by Muslim villagers of insulting the prophet Muhammad in a row over a cup of water. The supreme court judgment said there was no evidence to support the charge. She now faces a Supreme Court petition hearing in January which is seeking to overturn the acquittal.

Commenting, Carol Monaghan MP said:

“There are grave concerns regarding the safety of Asia Bibi, and I urge the Prime Minister to step in and grant unconditional asylum to Asia and her family here in the UK.

“Asia Bibi is living under protective custody in fear for her life. The UK government’s failure to act thus far has been nothing short of an abdication of its moral responsibility.

“Canada, Spain and France have reportedly made offers of asylum to the family. The UK government’s absence on the international stage has been noticeable and it’s high time the government demonstrated leadership – the UK must match its rhetoric on championing religious freedom with action.

“The Prime Minister last month spoke of her concern for the safety and security of Asia Bibi and her desire for a swift resolution, but as of yet, her government has failed to take the necessary steps to achieve that.

“The SNP will continue to work with other parliamentarians and human rights organisations in pressing the UK government to take the right course of action.”