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Minister says Clapham chemical attack case ‘not really about asylum’ as manhunt enters fourth day

Minister says Clapham chemical attack case ‘not really about asylum’ as manhunt enters fourth day

A cabinet minister has said the issue around the suspect in the Clapham chemical attack is "not really about asylum", despite top Tories blaming the suspect’s immigration status.

Education secretary Gillian Keegan said "we need to get to the bottom of" why sex offender Abdul Ezedi had been able to remain in Britain, suggesting the Home Office is looking into his status.

Asked how the suspect had been granted asylum after being found guilty of a sexual offence, Ms Keegan said that “is something that more than one person is asking”. “But this is not really about asylum,” Ms Keegan added, in comments likely to upset the Tory right.

Her comments come after former home secretary Suella Braverman said the attack showed why Britain “needs a fundamental overhaul of human rights laws”.

Abdul Ezedi is the suspect in an attack (Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Media)
Abdul Ezedi is the suspect in an attack (Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Media)

“We need to leave the ECHR [European Convention on Human Rights],” she said. “The Refugee Convention, the ECHR & the HRA [Human Rights Act] prevent us from deporting convicted criminals because the privileges these agreements now give them trump the fundamental rights of British people to live in a safe country.”

And Ms Braverman’s predecessor as home secretary Priti Patel told the Mail on Sunday Britain “must find a way to remove those who have no right to be in this country”.

Labour said the Ezedi case “raises very serious questions” about the asylum process – urging home secretary James Cleverly to explain how Ezedi was granted asylum.

Ezedi, 35, has been on the run since the attack in Clapham, south London, on Wednesday night. Detectives have urged the 35-year-old from the Newcastle area – who is described as having very “significant injuries to the right side of his face” – to hand himself in.

A 31-year-old mother, reported to have been in a relationship with Ezedi, was attacked with a corrosive alkaline substance and remains “very poorly” and sedated in hospital, with her injuries thought to be “life-changing”. Her daughters, aged three and eight, were also injured but less seriously.

Ezedi pleaded guilty to sexual assault and exposure in 2018 but was still granted asylum in Britain just a few years later.

Home Office sources said officials were demanding answers over why the suspect was granted asylum by the courts despite being denied the right to stay twice before.

It was reported that Ezedi, who is said to have travelled to the UK on a lorry from Afghanistan in 2016, was allowed to stay in the UK after a priest confirmed he had converted to Christianity.

Ms Patel and Ms Braverman attacked churches allowing asylum seekers to convert to Christianity, claiming they support “bogus asylum claims”.

And former immigration minister Robert Jenrick said the asylum system was “dangerously broken”.

Gillian Keegan said the Clapham chemical attack case is ‘not really about asylum’ (Getty Images)
Gillian Keegan said the Clapham chemical attack case is ‘not really about asylum’ (Getty Images)

The right-wing Tory called for the home secretary to review Ezedi’s asylum case and look at “what may have gone seriously wrong”.

But Ms Keegan told Sky News’ Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips programme: “My understanding is the home secretary has asked for all the details, but this is not really about asylum.

“Clearly, what we say is that anybody who commits crimes is not able to stay in this country. So, if you have a sentence of more than 12 months, you are not allowed to stay if you have a criminal record, etc.

"We don’t want to have people in this country who have criminal records."