The Home Office is facing calls to carry out an urgent review of how the main suspect in the alkaline substance attack was granted asylum.
Abdul Ezedi, 35 and from the Newcastle area, is still on the run after an attack left a girl and her mother with potentially life-changing injuries.
It is understood that Ezedi, who is reportedly from Afghanistan, was convicted of a sexual offence in 2018 and given a suspended sentence at Newcastle Crown Court.
He was granted asylum after two failed attempts, having reportedly travelled to the UK on a lorry in 2016, it is believed. According to reports, he was allowed to stay in the country after a priest confirmed he had converted to Christianity.
The details of the case have renewed calls from some Tory MPs for serious reform of the asylum system, with former immigration minister Robert Jenrick calling on Home Secretary James Cleverly to carry out a “detailed review” of how Ezedi was allowed to remain in the UK.
Children’s minister David Johnston, who toured broadcast studios on Friday morning, faced questions about the case as he defended Government efforts to crack down on illegal migration.
“It’s vital that we end the asylum merry-go-round that we have seen and that’s what the Safety of Rwanda Bill is all about,” he told Sky News.
Backbench Tory MPs from the right of the party, who have long demanded a more hard-line stance on illegal migration, were quick to point to the incident as evidence of the need to reform the asylum system.
Mr Jenrick, who quit the Government last year after pushing for a tougher approach to the Rwanda plan, said: “I would expect the Home Secretary to conduct a detailed review of what has happened and what may have gone seriously wrong in this case, and to put that information in the public domain, such is the public interest.”
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It appears from what little we know of this case, that this is an individual whose asylum or humanitarian protection in the UK was granted by a tribunal, so probably by a judge rather than Home Office officials, despite the fact that he had been convicted of a sexual offence and on the basis of evidence which, we shall have to see, may well be spurious or insubstantial, such as this suggestion that he had converted to Christianity.”
The last confirmed sighting of Abdul Ezedi was in Tesco on Caledonian Road, N1 at 8.48pm last night.
If you see Ezedi, call 999 immediately. He should NOT be approached.
If you have information as to his whereabouts call 0207 175 2784https://t.co/qQq1MXYXes
— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) February 1, 2024
He said he had long argued that “asylum seekers aided by legal representatives will make every possible argument to frustrate their removal, whether it’s to Rwanda or Albania or somewhere else”.
He added: “Some will be genuine, but the vast majority of those claims will not. Some are extremely difficult to prove or disprove, such as whether somebody has actually converted to Christianity.
“They have a letter in their hand from a local vicar and the Government, as you know, have chosen to go down the path of enabling those individual appeals to continue. And the courts, as may well be proven in this case, are often extremely sympathetic – I would argue, naive – in dealing with those cases.”
Former home secretary Suella Braverman said the case showed why the UK should leave the European Convention on Human Rights.
“The immigration history to this case demonstrates why we need a fundamental overhaul of human rights laws,” she said on X.
Another vocal backbencher Sir John Hayes said he would be writing to Mr Cleverly to request a review
He told the Telegraph: “This case provides an opportunity not only to review the criteria for granting asylum but also for how we deal with those who are known criminals.
“It won’t take much working out who has been here and subsequently received asylum and then committed a crime, and how we can deport all of them.”
Tory peer and ex-minister Zac Goldsmith warned: “Very few people would believe the British state was right to allow this person to stay in the UK. But he was allowed to, against all common sense.
“Conservative politicians will lament what happened and no doubt make promises. But this happened during a 13-year stint in power. This is on the Conservatives.”
Downing Street on Friday did not say whether the Home Office would heed calls for a review, pointing to the fact the investigation is ongoing.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “First and foremost on the attack, obviously, it was a horrific attack and the PM’s thoughts are with the victims and their families.
“And he’d like to extend his thanks to the emergency services for the very quick response to the scene and the five officers who were injured in the incident.”
He said that in general Mr Sunak “doesn’t think that foreign criminals should be able to stay in the country, putting the public at risk”.