Liverpool bomber’s asylum claim rejected by court six years before attack

·4-min read

The Liverpool bomber’s asylum claim was dismissed more than six years before he tried to carry out the attack, newly obtained court documents confirm.

Emad Al Swealmeen died from the blast and subsequent fire after his homemade bomb detonated in a taxi outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital shortly before 11am on November 14. The driver managed to escape and no-one else was hurt.

His inquest revealed he bought 2,000 ball bearings and rented a “bomb-making factory” to manufacture a device with “murderous intent”.

The Iraqi-born 32-year-old falsely claimed to be of Syrian heritage in asylum applications. He came to the UK in May 2014 legally, with a Jordanian passport and UK visa but his asylum claim was rejected, a coroner’s court heard last month.

Liverpool Women’s Hospital incident
Emad Al Swealmeen died after his homemade bomb detonated outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital on November 14 (Peter Byrne/PA)

He challenged the Home Office decision by lodging an appeal with the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) but this was dismissed in 2015, a copy of the ruling obtained following legal representations from the BBC – supported by the PA news agency – and The Times show.

The court papers give more detail about his failed asylum attempts and the false information he used to make his case – raising questions as to why he was not removed from the UK before the attack.

The decision dated April 16 of that year, after a hearing in Manchester three days earlier, detailed how Al Swealmeen had been diagnosed with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Home Office officials decided he had not established a “well-founded fear of persecution so that he did not qualify for asylum” and had not demonstrated “substantial grounds” to qualify for humanitarian protection. He had been informed of the “decision to remove him from the United Kingdom”, the court papers said.

According to the documents, Al Swealmeen claimed asylum six days after arriving in the UK, saying that he was fleeing his native war-torn Syria.

During interviews as part of his claim he was unable to explain why he was in danger or give any detail about his family’s circumstance in Syria, like basic facts about where they lived. A language expert analysed his speech and concluded it was highly likely he was Iraqi.

The judge noted there were “a number of problems” with his evidence and, considering Al Swealmeen’s credibility, said: “I find that the appellant has attempted to give an account to put himself in the best light.”

His account of his time in Syria “gives the impression of someone quoting information that is in the public domain rather than having first-hand experience”, the judge added, ruling: “In view of all the evidence, I reject his account of events in Syria and his fears on his return in their entirety, and dismiss his asylum appeal.”

Al Swealmeen did not attend the hearing. The solicitors initially representing him had withdrawn from the case and asked to be removed from the record.

Born in Baghdad, he had been in prison in the Middle East for a serious assault, as well as being convicted previously in Liverpool of possession of an offensive weapon. Al Swealmeen was still a practising Muslim despite converting to Christianity once in the UK, the coroner’s court was told.

He lived at Home Office-provided accommodation in Sutcliffe Street, in the Kensington area of Liverpool, but since April had rented a self-contained flat in Rutland Avenue, the inquest heard.

Al Swealmeen is said to have submitted a fresh asylum claim under a new name in 2017 which was also rejected by the end of 2020.

Officials confirmed that in January last year he had launched another first-tier tribunal appeal which was still outstanding at the time of the attack.

The Home Office has repeatedly refused to answer questions about the case or explain why Al Swealmeen was not removed from the UK once his asylum claim, and subsequent appeal, was rejected.

When contacted by PA, the department said it was “fixing the broken asylum system” and that the “New Plan for Immigration will require people to raise all protection-related issues up front to tackle the practice of making multiple and sequential claims and enable the removal of those with no right to be in our country more quickly”.

A spokesman would not comment on whether the Home Office was carrying out an internal inquiry, or conducting any investigations, into how the case was handled.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We are obviously taking steps more broadly to speed up the removal of those with no right to be in the UK and to streamline the appeals and judicial process which can be used to frustrate removal” but added that he could not comment further while the police investigation continued.

Decisions made by the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) are normally confidential. But, after requests for the records were made by the press, the tribunal’s president Judge Michael Clements accepted that in this instance the “public interest element is such that this outweighs the usual practice”.

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