As Christian mother Asia Bibi continues to plead for asylum in the West, it has been reported that UK Prime Minister Theresa May “blocked” a request for the embattled woman to be granted refugee status in Britain.
Despite British Home Secretary Sajid Javid arguing in favor of the UK helping Bibi reach the safety of British shores, May and her cabinet allegedly decided against the action. Last month, Bibi was acquitted by Pakistan’s Supreme Court after being convicted on bogus blasphemy charges and sentenced to death. Since her release, Bibi has been held under armed guard at an undisclosed location in Islamabad. Meanwhile, her family has been campaigning on her behalf in order to secure safe passage to a nation where she will be free to practice her religion without fear of persecution.
Describing the situation in the UK, a senior government source told the Daily Mail, “Sajid was very skeptical about the official advice, and pushed hard for her to be given asylum here. It eventually landed on the prime minister’s desk, but she just followed the advice of the officials.”
The prime minister has yet to formally comment on whether or not Britain will offer asylum to Bibi.
Others who advise Theresa May in an informal capacity have stated that much is being done by the UK government to ensure the safety of the targeted mother.
“We are doing a great deal,” said Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the prime minister’s special envoy on freedom of religion and belief, according to the Catholic Herald.
“We are working both with Pakistani authorities and like-minded countries so that whatever Asia Bibi and her family chooses to be, however that can be supported, that the British Government will continue to extend its support in that regard,” he said.
Despite Bibi being held in the relative safety of a protected location, her family are reportedly being hunted down by Islamic radicals. John Pontifex of Aid to the Church in Need UK told The Guardian that Islamic mullahs are “in their neighborhood going from house to house showing photos of family members on their phones, trying to hunt them down.”
“The family have had to move from place to place to avoid detection,” he added. “Sometimes they can only operate after sundown. They have had to cover their faces when they go out in public. They have had to remove the rosary that hangs from their car rear-view mirror for fear of attack.”
Pontifex noted that Bibi’s family was being sustained in their faith during “this time of acute danger.”
“They say that if they are not allowed to find a future outside Pakistan, the fear is that sooner or later something terrible might happen to them,” he added.
Despite earlier reports that the British government was fearful of reprisals in certain corners of the Muslim community if it granted Bibi asylum, others have argued this is not an adequate reason to prevent her from being admitted to the country.
“As someone who is deeply connected to British Muslim communities, I assure her that they are fully supportive of any asylum claim that Asia Bibi may have and that our country may afford her, and that she would be supported as she would be by all other communities in this country,” Baroness Sayeeda Warsi told the British House of Lords last week.
In addition, the Muslim Council of Britain tweeted that it sees “no reason why Asia Bibi should be denied asylum into the UK.”
At this time, it is understood that Canada, Spain and France have offered asylum to Bibi, though no arrangement has been confirmed yet.