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First-Tier Tribunal Finds Jamiyate Ulamaye Islam and Hefazat-e-Islam Activist in the UK at Risk of Persecution in Bangladesh

Written by
Shaheen Mamun, Black Antelope Law, and Sheraaz Hingora
Date of Publication:
19 April 2023

Instructed by Shaheen Mamun (Solicitor) [1] of Black Antelope Law and Sheraaz Hingora [2] (Barrister) of Clarendon Park Chambers

A recent Immigration and Asylum First-tier Tribunal appeal involving a Bangladeshi political activist has highlighted the dangers faced by opposition figures in the country and the importance of providing asylum to those in need of protection. According to the UNHCR Global Trends Report 2021, there are currently 26 million refugees worldwide, with more than 80% hosted in developing countries.

The appeal centered around the claim of the appellant, a member of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam [3] (JUI) and the Hefazat-e-Islam [4] (HEI) parties, that he would face persecution if returned to Bangladesh due to his political opinions and activities.

Pursuant to rule 13(1)(b) of the Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal) (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) Rules 2014, the Appellant has been granted anonymity and therefore cannot be named or publicised.

The Appellant, who had previously been detained and tortured by Bangladeshi authorities for his involvement in opposition activities, fled to the UK in 2015 after being warned by his family that the police were looking for him. He subsequently applied for asylum, which was refused by the Home Office on the basis that his claim was not credible and that he could safely return to Bangladesh.

In the determination, the Tribunal found that the Appellant's account of his experiences in Bangladesh was credible and that he would face a real risk of persecution if he were to return to the country. The Tribunal noted that the JUI and HEI parties are viewed as opposition groups by the ruling Awami League and that members of these parties are often subject to harassment, arrest, and violence by the authorities and their supporters [5]. The Tribunal also found that the Appellant's role within the parties was significant and that he had previously been targeted by the authorities for his activities.

The Tribunal rejected several arguments put forward by the Home Office in support of its decision to refuse asylum. The Home Office had argued that the Appellant's ability to leave and re-enter Bangladesh several times without encountering difficulties or being arrested undermined his claim that he faced persecution. However, the Tribunal found that there was little evidence to suggest that the authorities maintained a watchlist at the airport or that such a list would be consistently applied. The Home Office also argued that the Appellant's delay in claiming asylum undermined his credibility, but the Tribunal found that this did not materially damage his account.

The Tribunal also considered several pieces of evidence submitted by the Appellant in support of his claim, including letters from the JUI and HEI parties, news reports, and Facebook posts. The Home Office had argued that these documents should be given little weight as they were translated outside the UK and were not certified translations. While the court acknowledged this point, it found that the documents did not materially assist or damage the Appellant's case.

Overall, the Tribunal found that the appellant had proved that he would face a real risk of persecution if he were to return to Bangladesh and that there was no sufficiency of protection or internal relocation option available to him. The Tribunal therefore granted him asylum.

This case highlights the ongoing challenges faced by opposition figures in Bangladesh and the importance of providing asylum to those who are at risk of persecution. According to Human Rights Watch [6], Bangladesh's ruling Awami League has increasingly cracked down on opposition groups in recent years, with many activists, journalists, and opposition figures being subject to arbitrary arrest, torture, and enforced disappearance . The Bangladesh government has also been accused of using repressive laws to silence dissent, including the Digital Security Act, which criminalizes online speech critical of the government.

The UN Refugee Agency reports that Bangladesh is currently hosting over 1.1 million refugees, the majority of whom are Rohingya Muslims who have fled persecution in neighboring Myanmar. However, the country has also become a destination for asylum seekers from other countries, including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan, who are seeking protection from persecution and conflict.

In conclusion, the case of AAK v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2022] UKUT 107 (IAC) highlights the challenges that asylum seekers face in proving their claims and the importance of providing detailed and consistent evidence to support their case. It also underscores the critical role of country background evidence in assessing the credibility of an asylum seeker's account.

While the Appellant in this case was ultimately successful in proving that he faced a real risk of persecution if returned to Bangladesh, his success was due in part to the strength of the country background evidence supporting his claim.

The determination also highlights the importance of engaging a competent and reliable translator to ensure the accuracy of translated documents, as this can significantly impact the weight given to such evidence.

This case serves as a reminder of the UK's obligations under international law to protect individuals who are at risk of persecution or serious harm in their home country due to their political opinion. It also highlights the importance of ensuring that asylum seekers are given a fair and impartial hearing and that their claims are assessed on an individual basis.

Asylum seekers continue to face significant challenges in the UK and around the world, with many facing long delays in the processing of their claims and a lack of access to legal representation and support. It is essential that governments and policymakers continue to work towards creating a fairer and more just asylum system, one that upholds the rights and dignity of all individuals seeking protection.