Was a failed asylum seeker allowed to stay in the UK because he goes to the gym?

24 October 2011

"Failed asylum seeker who has dodged deportation for a decade told he can stay...because he goes to the GYM", Daily Mail, 24 October 2011.

It's only a few weeks since Home Secretary Theresa May caused controversy by claiming that an illegal immigrant managed to avoid deportation because he owned a cat. Today, however, the Daily Mail ran an article which ticked many of the same boxes.

It focused on an immigrant's appeal to stay in the UK, featured an astonishing claim about the reasons given for allowing him to remain, and decried the protection granted to illegal immigrants by current law and, in particular, by the European Convention on Human Rights.

Full Fact investigated the story behind the headline.


The asylum seeker in question is an Iranian man named Amir Beheshti, and the judge's decision referred to was made by Lord Glennie in Scotland's Court of Session. Mr Beheshti has been in the UK since 1 February 2005, the day after which he claimed asylum, only to have his case rejected.

He subsequently put forward a claim to stay based on his right to private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. This claim was similarly rejected by the courts. Mr Beheshti again appealed this decision, and this time his case was looked upon favourably by Lord Glennie.

In paragraph seven of the Mail's article, a quote from Lord Glennie's written decision is provided in support of the claim that Mr Beheshti was allowed to stay in the country because he goes to the gym. It reads as follows:

"He had integrated well within the Glasgow community, had a large network of friends, most of whom were Scottish, and socialised with those friends at the gymnasium, at five-a- side football, in coffee shops, at college, in the library and at their homes."

This is indeed a verbatim quote from Lord Glennie's written decision. It is also the only reference in the entire statement to a gymnasium. It is not, however, presented in its full context by the Daily Mail. Lord Glennie is actually here himself referencing a letter sent by Mr Beheshti to the UK Border Agency as part of his appeal to be allowed to remain in the UK. This quote does not represent the opinion or judgement of Lord Glennie, but is instead simply a summary of Mr Beheshti's claims in his letter.

Furthermore, Mr Beheshti's claims here certainly do not amount to the assertion that he believes that he has the right to stay in the UK because he goes to the gym (nor is there any indication that the judge might plausibly be persuaded by that line of argument). Instead the gym is referenced by Mr Beheshti in support of his claim that he has established a private life in the UK, and that this private life should be protected under the ECHR.

So what does Lord Glennie actually decide? The last line of the decision reads as follow:

"I propose to grant decree of reduction to allow the petitioner's application by letter of 2 February 2010, as supplemented by the material presented on 12 March 2010, to be reconsidered by the Secretary of State"

He makes the judgement that Mr Beheshti's claims regarding his right to private and family life were not given by the Secretary of State the "anxious scrutiny" they deserved. In other words, they were not given adequate consideration. On this ground he refers the case back to the Secretary of State so that the decision can be reviewed in this light.

The Daily Mail does, to its credit, mention that the actual decision is a referral back to the Secretary of State, saying:

"A top Scottish judge issued a written decision in which he agreed the case should be referred back to Home Secretary Theresa May for fresh consideration"

It then adds that this "effectively" means that:

"the threat of deportation has been removed and Beheshti is free to remain in Scotland indefinitely."

While it is certainly true that Mr Beheshti is free to remain in Glasgow until the results of his latest judgement are known, it does seem to be stretching the point to suggest that he is therefore free to remain "indefinitely", as the border agency still have it within their power to rule that he should be deported.


The Mail's headline would seem to suggest to anyone glancing at the story that Mr Beheshti had been successful in his asylum application on the strength of his fitness regime. This is certainly not the case.

The Mail does qualify this for those readers persevering into the body of the article, however even once these provisos have been taken into account, much is left to be desired.

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