UK: Muslim Brotherhood members can claim asylum from Egypt

#EgyptTurmoil

British government guidance comes less than a year after UK decided not to ban the UK branch of the group

Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood rally in Cairo in early 2014 (AFP/File)
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Saturday 6 August 2016 9:27 UTC
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Egyptian members of the Muslim Brotherhood may be able to seek asylum in the UK, according to new guidance from British immigration authorities.

But the move could anger London’s allies in the Middle East – including Egypt and Saudi Arabia - which have declared the Brotherhood a “terrorist” organisation.

'Each case will need to be considered on its facts'

The Home Office guidance, entitled “Country Information and Guidance Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood”, states that high profile or politically active members, especially those attending protests “may be able to show that they are at risk of persecution, including of being held in detention, where they may be at risk of ill-treatment, trial also without due process and disproportionate punishment."

It continues: “Additionally, high profile supporters or those perceived to support the MB, such as journalists, may also be similarly at risk of persecution. In such cases, a grant of asylum will be appropriate."

The documents states however that “low-level, nonpolitical or inactive members and supporters are not generally being targeted” and that they may not be able to show a real risk of persecution” before concluding: “Each case will need to be considered on its facts.”

It also adds that the group "are reported to have released a statement in January 2015 calling on followers to embrace 'jihad' and 'martyrdom' to fight the current regime" in Egypt.

"Depending on the nature of the person’s involvement, decision makers must consider whether one of the exclusion clauses is applicable."

UK sends mixed messages about group

During the past two years the UK government has sent mixed messages about the Brotherhood.

In December 2015, then prime minister David Cameron said in a written statement that while the country would not ban the group, it had a "highly ambiguous relationship with violent extremism" and was "deliberately opaque".

He added that the Uk would "refuse visas to members and associates of the Muslim Brotherhood who are on record as having made extremist comments."

Cameron's comments came at the same time as the publication of an of an 11-page summary of a review, which has been repeatedly delayed and has yet to be released in full.

The Jenkins review did not find direct links between the UK Brotherhood and radical Islam, but said that membership could be considered a "possible indicator of extremism" and that the group had been a "rite of passage" to violence for some members.

As a result, it said, the group would be closely monitored to ensure it was not breaking UK anti-terrorism laws.

UK allies in Middle East: Putting pressure on London?

The Jenkins report was commissioned in 2013 as Britain came under pressure from the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to ban the Brotherhood, which had been proscribed as terrorist in all three countries following the removal of Brotherhood member Mohamed Morsi from the Egyptian presidency.

Critics of the report have accused Britain of conducting the investigation under pressure from Gulf allies.

That concern was heightened last November when reports emerged of documents revealing that the UAE had threatened to cut lucrative arms deals with the UK, stop inward investment and cut intelligence cooperation if Cameron did not act against the group.

British ministers delayed its publication on two occasions, leading to allegations that the results would upset British allies in the Middle East. The final report remains unpublished.

In June foreign policy experts told the UK parliament’s foreign affairs committee that the report overemphasised the group’s connection to violence and was at times inaccurate.

Courtney Freer, a research officer at the London School of Economic’s Kuwait Programme, said the Jenkin’s review “overplayed the connection between the Brotherhood and violence and violent groups”.

The Brotherhood, which was founded in Egypt in 1928 but now has branches in many states, many of which have little connection between one another, has repeatedly denied that it has engaged in or promoted acts of violence.