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UN High Commissioner for Refugees

Question for Department for International Development

UIN HL12773, tabled on 14 January 2019

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of whether the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has a consistent policy on resettling asylum seekers who claim that atheism or religious beliefs will lead to their persecution if returned to their countries of origin; if they have found that it is not consistent, what steps they are taking to ensure it is; how many such claimants have submitted applications to the UNHCR in Thailand; and how long, on average, it takes for such applications to be processed.

Answered on

28 January 2019

UNHCR is mandated to protect all refugees and other displaced persons, including those who fear persecution on the basis of religion. UNHCR’s procedures and criteria for determining refugee status include religious persecution, in line with the Refugee Convention. Where religious belief causes or heightens the risk a refugee faces, UNHCR will take this into consideration when assessing specific vulnerabilities, and determining the appropriate protection interventions (including but not limited to resettlement).

HMG does not hold information on the number of asylum claims submitted to UNHCR in Thailand, or elsewhere; this information is held by UNHCR. Individual data is considered private and confidential and not normally shared with third parties (and never without the specific consent of the individual). Furthermore, UNHCR does not routinely identify or record beneficiaries by their religion where this has no bearing on their case. The reason for this is because there is a risk that collecting information about the ethnicity or religion of people receiving aid could be obtained by others, including extremist groups, and used to persecute them.