Minister vows to ‘end asylum merry-go-round’ as Clapham suspect was allowed to stay in UK despite conviction

2 February 2024, 14:12 | Updated: 2 February 2024, 14:33

A government minister has said they will end the 'merry-go-round of asylum' in the wake of Clapham chemical attack.
A government minister has said they will end the 'merry-go-round of asylum' in the wake of Clapham chemical attack. Picture: Met Police

By Jenny Medlicott

The government is determined to 'end the merry-go-round' of asylum, a minister has said, as it faces growing calls to launch an urgent review into the UK's asylum rules.

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‘Dangerous’ Abdul Shokoor Ezedi, 35, a convicted sex attacker, is being sought by police after allegedly leaving three victims with ‘life changing injuries’.

It emerged last night that Ezedi is a former asylum seeker from Afghanistan who was allowed to remain in the UK despite being convicted of a sexual offence.

It is understood that he arrived in the UK by lorry in 2016 and made two unsuccessful attempts to claim asylum.

He appealed his second rejected claim however, which was then overturned in 2020 when a church witness said he believed Ezedi had converted to Christianity, according to reports.

A spokesman for Rishi Sunak declined to comment on the suspect’s asylum status but said the Prime Minister does not “ think that foreign criminals should be able to stay in the country”.

Children and Families Minister David Johnston told LBC on Friday that the government is determined to end the “merry-go-round” of the asylum system as the manhunt for Ezedi continues.

Mr Johnston told LBC’s Nick Ferrari at Breakfast: “This is exactly why we’ve had our plan to end the asylum merry-go-round.

“Too often people in the public have seen people be able to frustrate the legal system, keep making legal appeals, eventually claim asylum where it’s very unclear that they shouldn’t have been allowed to”.

Asked how to Rwanda Bill would help toughen up the laws around convicted offenders claiming asylum in the UK, he said it would “remove the ability for people to make endless legal appeals”.

Read more: Clapham chemical attack fugitive snuck into Britain on lorry and was granted asylum after committing sex assault

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Nick Ferrari condemns lawyers and politicians 'seeking to obstruct' our asylum laws

It is understood officials working under Home Secretary James Cleverly are reviewing how the Clapham suspect managed to claim asylum despite his conviction.

Mr Johnston said the focus for the now should be on tracking down the chemical attack suspect and depending on how that progresses, then they can reassess the rules around claiming asylum.

It comes after Miriam Cates, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge and the co-chair of the New Conservative group of MPs, told The Telegraph on Thursday evening that the case shows the “urgent need to tighten up our asylum processes”.

While Sir John Hayes, former minister and MP for South Holland and The Deepings, said he would be writing to the Home Secretary, James Cleverly, asking for an urgent review of the UK's asylum rules.

Reacting to the calls for tougher rules around asylum, Mr Sunak’s spokesman said on Friday: “The PM doesn’t think that foreign criminals should be able to stay in the country, putting the public at risk”.

While Greg Hands, the Minister for London, told LBC that the Home Office needs to review whether procedures were followed when granting Ezedi asylum.

He said: "The Home Office and others will have to have a look at the background in this case and check that procedures were followed but I can understand public concern about this kind of case. I think we’ll have to look at exactly what happened here.”

The hunt for Ezedi who maimed a mother and her two daughters in a chemical attack on the streets of London entered its third day on Friday.

An image of the suspect was released last night showing him in a branch of Tesco on Caledonian Road store with significant injuries to the right side of his face.

Live: Manhunt for Clapham chemical attack suspect with 'significant injuries' continues

Tory MP on why we have to 'end the asylum merry-go-round' after Clapham chemical attack

Sir John Hayes, former minister and MP for South Holland and The Deepings, said he would be writing to the Home Secretary, James Cleverly, asking for an urgent review of the UK's asylum rules.

The mother and her two children were among 12 people injured when the "corrosive substance", thought to be an alkaline oven cleaner, was thrown in south London.

Ezedi was handed a suspended sentence in 2018 for "sexual assault" of an unpaid work order.

He was granted asylum in 2021 or 2022 after claiming he had converted to Christianity and a priest had vouched that Ezedi was “wholly committed” to his new religion, according to The Telegraph.

Ezedi was last seen in Caledonian Road, Islington, in North London, having initially travelled down from Newcastle.

Police said he has suffered "significant injuries" to the right side of his face and urged members of the public to get in touch if they see him.

They released a new image on Thursday evening, showing the extent of the damage to his face.

The Met's Superintendent Gabriel Cameron said: "We are now releasing an image of the last known sighting of Abdul Shokoor Ezedi, which was on Caledonian Road, N1 at 20:48hrs on Thursday, 31 January.

Police have now released this image of the suspect
Police have now released this image of the suspect. Picture: Metropolitan Police

"The image is taken from the Tesco store, where Ezedi is believed to have purchased a bottle of water. He left the shop and turned right.

"The image shows Ezedi with what appears to be significant injuries to the right side of his face. This makes him distinctive.

"If you see Ezedi, call 999 immediately. He should NOT be approached."

A manhunt is under way for the "dangerous" suspect after he also allegedly threw the child to the ground in the attack in Lessar Avenue, near Clapham Common, at about 7.25pm on Wednesday.

Follow live: Police hunt suspect with 'significant facial injuries' after mother and daughters injured in chemical attack

Abdul Shokoor Ezedi
Abdul Shokoor Ezedi. Picture: Met Police

Met police chief Mark Rowley has said that a total of 12 people were hurt in the attack.

This includes a woman and her two daughters, who police believe were known to the suspect.

The injuries may end up being life-changing, police said.

Meanwhile, four members of the public, three of whom went to hospital and were later discharged, were injured, as well as one who declined hospital treatment.

Five police officers, all of whom went to hospital, have also been discharged.

Read More: Have-a-go hero bus driver rescued girl, 3, after she was 'thrown from a car' in Clapham chemical attack

Mum-of-three Shannon Christie, who lives nearby, said: "I saw a little girl being thrown to the floor.

"At that point I ran in and grabbed her off the floor. I heard her mum shouting 'I can't see, I can't see'.

"So I called my partner to get some water. Staff at the hospital then came round and were dousing her with water."

Superintendent Cameron, a senior officer who polices in Lambeth, said earlier: "It was reported that a man had thrown a child to the ground and that a substance - which we now know to be alkaline - had been thrown.

"The man attempted to make off in a car but collided with a stationary vehicle, and then made off on foot, in the direction of Clapham Common.

"We believe the man and woman are known to each other. Our investigation is in its early stages and we are working to establish why this awful incident has happened."

He added: "We will catch him, I am wholeheartedly confident."

Police at the scene in Lessar Avenue near Clapham Common, south London
Police at the scene in Lessar Avenue near Clapham Common, south London. Picture: Alamy

Superintendent Cameron added that police were working with other agencies to locate Abdul Ezedi.

"So we're liaising with other partners agencies," he said.

"We're working alongside Northumbria (Police), we believe the male is from the Newcastle area.

"And he could be going back there, he may not be, but he could be.

"British Transport Police are also working alongside us as well. So we are working in collaboration with other agencies to try and locate this male."

Anyone with information is urged to contact police on a special hotline 0207 175 2784. Members of the public have been warned against approaching the suspect and warned to call 999 immediately.

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