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Forty refugees on the Bibby Stockholm have reportedly started attending local churches amid fears that conversion may be a new ‘loophole’ to remain in the country. 

Worshippers in Portland, Dorset — where the barge is moored — claim that a number of migrants are converting to Christianity through UK courses such as Christian Alpha, while others have converted in their home country.

An estimated one in seven of the 300 migrants currently housed on the lighter are said to be attending churches under supervision of faith leaders. 

It comes as Clapham chemical attack suspect, Abdul Ezedi, was able to gain asylum in the UK after claiming he had converted to Christianity, despite being convicted of a sexual offence three years prior.

‘Forty’ refugees on the Bibby Stockholm Barge are attending local church services amid fears that conversion may be new ‘loophole’ to remain in country after Clapham chemical attack suspect’s asylum claim was supported by church

Abdul Ezedi (pictured), was able to gain asylum in the UK after claiming he had converted to Christianity, despite having been convicted of a sexual offence three years prior

The Bibby Stockholm barge (pictured) which is moored at Portland, Dorset

The Bibby Stockholm barge (pictured) which is moored at Portland, Dorset

The Church of England has since come under fire for allegedly ‘facilitating industrial-scale bogus asylum claims’, with former Home Secretaries Suella Braverman and Dame Priti Patel accusing church leaders of ‘political activism’. 

But the Church of England said it is currently not aware of any links to its churches. A Church spokesperson also added that it is ‘the role of the Home Office, and not the church, to vet asylum seekers and judge the merits of their individual cases’.

The current Home Secretary, James Cleverly, is expected to receive an initial report detailing the full facts of the case on Monday. 

He will consider whether laws need to be changed to better scrutinize conversion claims, and he will examine whether to enable the automatic deportation of convicted foreign criminals such as Ezedi.

An estimated one in seven of the 300 migrants currently housed on the lighter are said to be attending churches under supervision of faith leaders

An estimated one in seven of the 300 migrants currently housed on the lighter are said to be attending churches under supervision of faith leaders

A handout CCTV image issued by the Metropolitan Police of Abdul Ezedi, the suspect in the Clapham alkaline substance attack, at King's Cross underground station

A handout CCTV image issued by the Metropolitan Police of Abdul Ezedi, the suspect in the Clapham alkaline substance attack, at King’s Cross underground station

Church elder David Rees told the BBC that a number of migrants were undergoing the process of becoming Christian through UK courses such as Christian Alpha, while others converted in their home country.

‘Local faith leaders have visited the barge and work with the council and the barge management in looking after these guys,’ he said.

Ezedi is a former asylum seeker from Afghanistan who is thought to have arrived in the UK from Afghanistan on the back of a lorry in 2016.

He was granted asylum after getting a priest to vouch that he had converted to Christianity from Islam, despite having been convicted of two sexual assault offences three years earlier.

The Home Office had previously twice refused the 35-year-old’s request to stay in the country.

The Met Police released more images of Clapham chemical attack Abdul Ezedi strolling injured through King's Cross station following Wednesday's events

The Met Police released more images of Clapham chemical attack Abdul Ezedi strolling injured through King’s Cross station following Wednesday’s events 

Forensic police at the scene on Wednesday night near Clapham following the attack 

Ezedi’s movements on the day of the attack

Police have released a timeline of Abdul Ezedi’s movements on the day of the attack. 

00:15 – Ezedi’s vehicle is seen in Newcastle

06:30 – His vehicle is then seen traveling into Tooting, London

16:30 – A further sighting of his vehicle is confirmed in Croydon

19:00 – He is then seen driving in Streatham

19:25 – Attack takes place in Lessar Avenue, SW4, before Ezedi makes off in his vehicle which crashes nearby. He leaves the car and runs off.

19:33 – Ezedi boards a train at Clapham South Tube Station.

19:59 – He is then seen leaving that train at King’s Cross Tube Station.

20:42 – He is then seen on CCTV leaving Tesco at 21 Caledonian Rd, London N1 9DX. He exits and turns right.

21:00 – Ezedi enters King’s Cross Tube Station and boards a Victoria Line tube Southbound.

Church support for Ezedi’s conversion is understood to have been critical to persuading an immigration tribunal judge to back his third appeal for asylum, with a priest vouching that he was ‘wholly committed’ to the Christian faith. 

Former minister Tim Loughton said he was concerned that Christian conversion had become a scam, claiming there were some cases in which asylum seekers had even been tattooed with crucifixes to reinforce their claims. 

‘We have got to have a much more rigorous scrutiny process for those claiming to have converted and the basis on which it would be dangerous to return them to their home countries,’ he told the Telegraph.

Mr Rees, meanwhile, said he was confident that all 40 Bibby Stockholm migrants were genuinely converting to Christianity.

‘Obviously, we need to make sure that they believe in the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit and repent of their sins and also they want to start a new life in the church,’ he said.

‘So those are the sort of questions that we ask them, and they have to give a public testimony, at their baptism, which they did in their native language, and it was translated into English.

‘There were no qualms at all about the content of that testimony, which was clear and conclusive about their faith in Jesus Christ.’

The Home Office said caseworkers are trained to only grant protection to those in genuine need by assessing claims ‘in the round’ and not taking priests’ testimony as ‘determinative’.

Ezedi, from the Newcastle area, is accused of carrying out a ‘targeted’ attack on a 31-year-old mother and her two daughters on Wednesday night in Clapham.

The woman, believed to be known to Ezedi, was attacked with a corrosive alkaline substance and remains ‘very poorly’ and sedated in hospital, with her injuries thought to be ‘life-changing’.

The injuries to her daughters, aged three and eight, are ‘not likely to be life-changing’.

Ezedi – who is described as having very ‘significant injuries to the right side of his face’ – was last seen at King’s Cross underground station on Wednesday night, where he boarded a southbound Victoria line train.

‘Significant and important pieces of evidence’ were recovered in raids at two addresses in east London and three in Newcastle, police said.

They include empty containers with corrosive warnings found at one address in Newcastle, which are shown in new footage released by detectives.

Forensic tests to see if the containers held the substance used in the attack are ongoing.

The Metropolitan Police said it has received ‘dozens of calls’ about the manhunt, including possible sightings of Ezedi.



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