Written by Mahfuz Ahmed.



Asylum seekers can come to the United Kingdom, and their cultural, traditional and religious ideals and principles may have changed after spending a duration of time in the UK or in Europe.


Those asylum seekers may believe that they have been ‘westernised’ and therefore this may cause danger for those asylum seekers to return to their home country, where the social, cultural, economic and political ideas may be significantly different.


The definition of Westernised is given as the ‘The spread of cultural *values associated with Western Europe and their impact on other cultures’ (Oxford reference). This broad definition generally makes it difficult for an asylum seeker to succeed on such a basis without a clearer definition.


However, in a recent case the Upper Tribunal granted an Iraqi family asylum due to them becoming ‘westernised’ here in the UK.


YMKA and Ors (‘westernisation’) Iraq [2022] UKUT 16 (IAC)


This new reported case relates to a family, consisting of mother, father, and 3 children all from Iraq. They all left their home, Baghdad in 2006, and after spending a number of years in Jordan and UAE, they came to the UK. The whole family were residing in the UK by 2014.


The Appellants’ claimed asylum on the basis that they were all ‘westernised’ individuals who hold views opposing to those prevailing in Iraqi society, and due to this, they would face a real risk of serious harm and/or these views would present very significant obstacles to their integration upon return to Iraq.


The Appellants’ appeal was initially dismissed by the First-tier tribunal, and following a successful application for permission to appeal to the Upper Tribunal, they Upper Tribunal set aside the First-tier Tribunal’s decision and the case was reheard.


The Tribunal’s findings


The Tribunal considered whether being ‘westernised’ is a protected right under the Refugee Convention. The term ‘westernised’ has featured in a number of country guidance cases but the term ‘Westernised individuals’ has not been explained. The Tribunal stated that it was striking that a term that is used so frequently in our society has never been more closely defined.


The Tribunal held that the Refugee Convention does not offer protection to enjoy a socially liberal lifestyle however the convention may be engaged where:


(a)    a ‘westernised’ lifestyle reflects a protected characteristic such as political opinion or religious belief; or


(b)    where there is a real risk that the individual concerned would be unable to mask his westernisation, and where actors of persecution would therefore impute such protected characteristics to him.


The Appellants showed that their westernised lifestyle reflects their political opinions and religious beliefs which could not be replicated in Iraq, and if done so, would place them in danger.


Accordingly, there appeals were granted.


Our comments


This is a much welcomed decision from the Upper Tribunal. The Appellants’ case reminds all of us that those social freedoms, which many of us take for granted, are particularly valued by those who face the prospect of having those freedoms taken away.


Should you have claimed asylum as you fear return to your home country, then we can certainly help in ensuring that you case is represented in the best possible way.


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