Liverpool bomber 'exploited' asylum loophole to stay in UK - Home Sec

17 November 2021, 06:35 | Updated: 17 November 2021, 07:01

Priti Patel said Emad Al Swealmeen was able to exploit Britain's asylum system
Priti Patel said Emad Al Swealmeen was able to exploit Britain's asylum system. Picture: Alamy/social media

By Daisy Stephens

Priti Patel has said the suspect in the Liverpool Remembrance Sunday suicide bombing was able to exploit Britain's "dysfunctional" asylum system after reports he remained in the country for six years after his asylum application was rejected.

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The Home Secretary told reporters on her flight to Washington that the system was a "complete merry-go-round", with a "whole industry" dedicated to protecting "people [that] have come to our country and abused British values", according to reports.

"The case in Liverpool was a complete reflection of how dysfunctional, how broken, the system has been in the past, and why I want to bring changes forward," she was quoted as saying.

"It's a complete merry-go-round and it has been exploited.

"A whole sort of professional legal services industry has based itself on rights of appeal, going to the courts day-in day-out at the expense of the taxpayers through legal aid.

"That is effectively what we need to change."

Read more: Couple who lived with Liverpool terror suspect believed he "wouldn't harm a fly"

Read more: CCTV footage shows Remembrance Sunday blast outside Liverpool hospital

She added: "These people have come to our country and abused British values, abused the values of the fabric of our country and our society.

"And as a result of that, there's a whole industry that thinks it's right to defend these individuals that cause the most appalling crimes against British citizens, devastating their lives, blighting communities - and that is completely wrong."

One person died and another was injured after a taxi exploded outside Liverpool Women's Hospital moments before 11am on Remembrance Sunday.

The suspect, 32-year-old Emad Al Swealmeen, who died in the blast, reportedly arrived in the UK from the Middle East in 2014 and had an application for asylum rejected the following year - but was still in the country six years later.

Ms Patel told reporters on her flight to the US capital that the case showed by the Government was right to reform the asylum system.

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Al Swealmeen was a Christian convert, and the reports said there was growing concern within the Home Office about the role of the Church of England in converting asylum seekers.

But a couple who took him in after his asylum rejection said his faith was genuine, saying he had a "real passion for Jesus Christ".

However it is understood that an Islamist plot is one line of inquiry being considered by police, although they say the motivation is yet to be established and they are keeping an open mind.

The incident has been declared a terrorist attack and the UK terror threat level has since been raised from substantial to severe, meaning an attack is "highly likely" rather than "likely".

Despite initial speculation the attack was linked to one of the nearby Remembrance Sunday events, the current understanding is now that the hospital was the intended target.

Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson, from Counter-Terrorism Police North West, previously told journalists the explosive device had been "manufactured" and the force's assumption was that it was built by Al Swealmeen.

The inquiry is examining, among other possibilities, whether the main charge on the device failed to explode and if the homemade explosive TATP was used.

Read more: Four men arrested in connection with the Liverpool explosion released from custody

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Searches have been carried out at an address in Rutland Avenue, where detectives said Al Swealmeen was picked up by the taxi, and at a second property in Sutcliffe Street, where officers believe he previously lived.

Four men arrested under terrorism laws in the Kensington area of Liverpool - three aged 21, 26 and 29, who were held on Sunday, and a man aged 20 who was detained on Monday - have now been released from police custody following interviews.

Police continued to appeal for any information about the incident or the suspected attacker.