Enzo Almeni was confirmed on the same day. He walked past the magnificent West Doors in Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral and under the huge statue of Jesus Christ.

To take his place at the altar, he crossed the marbled floor past long-forgotten priests’ stone tombs and memorial plaques.

It was March 27, 2017, and Almeni was welcomed into the Church with open arms, in a ceremony attended by beaming friends and well-wishers — among them the retired, devout Christian couple who would invite him to live with them just days later.

The cathedral was part of an investigation by counter-terrorism officers into a bomb blast in a taxi that was parked just outside of a hospital one mile away. It happened at 10.59 AM on Remembrance Sunday.

Enzo Almeni was confirmed on the same day. He walked past the magnificent West Doors in Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral and under the huge statue of Risen Christ.

We now know that the bomber was Enzo almeni. He is a Christian convert who changed his name from Emad Al Swealmeen by deed.

The second terror attack in a month — following the killing of MP Sir David Amess — has seen the UK threat level raised to ‘severe’.

The wider public has been also exposed to a weakness in the asylum system that many believe may have compromised national security over the years. This is how some asylum seekers falsely claimed to be Christian converts to help them stay in the UK.

In the wake of the attempted Liverpool atrocity — in which Almeni died — a row has erupted over the so-called ‘Pray to Stay’ racket.

Members of the Home Office Select Committee demand a Parliamentary inquiry. Counter-extremism think tanks are calling for an investigation into ‘Liverpool Cathedral conversion cluster’.

He crossed the marbled floor, past the stone tombs of long-forgotten clergymen and commemorative plaques to the great and good of the City, to take his place in a pew before the high altar

He crossed over the marbled floor and passed the stones tombs of forgotten clergymen to reach a place on a bench before the high altar.

Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, described the asylum process as “a complete merry go-round” and that it has been exploited to its full extent by an entire professional legal services sector which is based itself upon rights of appeal and going before the courts daily on legal assistance at the cost of taxpayers.

It is not known what exactly happened to Enzo Almeni, 32 years old. There are no indications that he converted it for asylum purposes. 

But the Mail can today reveal the scale of Christian conversions that may have facilitated successful asylum claims sanctioned by the clergy — and how the Church of England’s ruling body offered advice on the role of Christian conversions if asylum claims fail.

Almeni can be seen as an anomaly who has slipped by the intelligence net. 

Khairi Sadallah was an asylee who converted from Libya to Christianity after he murdered the three men in Reading’s park last year.

A 38-year old Iranian asylum seeker who had raped a teenager girl in 2018 was not deported, even though a judge believed that his conversion to Christianity was an intentional ploy to defeat the system.

After five years imprisonment, the judge found that the man was at high risk for persecution because of his 850 tweets which quoted the Bible.

The UK’s immigration courts heard hundreds of cases in recent years from asylum seekers who claimed to be Christians and wanted to remain here.

If the asylum seeker is able to prove they are not able to reside in their country without fear, then they may be granted permission to remain for five years in the UK under the Human Rights Act. 

This week the cathedral was part of a key line of inquiry for counter-terrorism police investigating a bomb explosion in a taxi parked outside a hospital a mile away, at 10.59am on Remembrance Sunday

The Cathedral was part of an investigation by counter-terrorism officers into a bomb blast that occurred in a taxi outside a hospital about a mile from the cathedral at 10.59am Remembrance Sunday.

Those who convert from Islam to Christianity are committing the crime of ‘apostasy’ — ‘deserting Islam’ — in their home countries, which in some nations, including Iran, is punishable by death.

The supporting evidence that church leaders provide to immigration tribunals can make a difference in whether an asylum seeker is allowed to remain or deported.

This week’s report from The Times says that some smugglers encourage conversion among desperate migrants.

Many Christian churches have close relationships with immigration solicitors who cross-refer asylum applicants to each other, according to some reports.

Two Glasgow-based Iranian Muslims, known as TF or MA and who converted to Christianity after moving from Iran, won a historic fight against the Home Office last year with support of Tron Church. Tron Church is a Church of Scotland congregation in Glasgow, which is headed by John Taylor, a retired missionary and solicitor.

This is despite TF being found to have forged a correspondence from Iran and had entered the UK in 2013. He also claimed to have been on a pilgrimage through Saudi Arabia. . . This undermines his assertion that Islam played no role in his personal life.

Second man initially claimed he was gay (a crime against Iran), and then claimed he was Christian. Judge said the judge was keeping the Christian identity ‘in reserve,’ which could be used if homosexuality claims fail. 

A judge called the claim of the man a “multi-layered conspiracy” adding that he was not an asylum seeker.

Four Tron Church representatives, including Mr Taylor, who assisted dozens Middle Eastern asylum seekers in their claims since 2010, supported them. The joint case ended up being successful after the Home Office gave way to the claimants’ requests before a rehearing appeal.

Although the cases of TF and MA have already been cited at subsequent conversion tribunals it could open up to many more claims. Yesterday, the Tron Church did not comment.

Many asylum seekers openly discuss the reasons they converted. Abdul, a Middle East man, shared his story with William Wheeler in this book. [Conversion]After his failed asylum appeals, he said that he was willing to accept a 60% reduction.

He wrote, “He described succinctly what it means to be a refused asylum seeker: Your case is closed.” To make a new claim you will need “a different story”. His claim was ultimately rejected.

Of course, there are many people seeking asylum who are really desperate and have fled war-torn or dangerous regimes. As such, charity is an essential tenet in Christianity and it makes sense that leaders of the church would offer help to those in greatest need.

Is it possible they may sometimes go above the moral obligation to help in other dubious claims

The Church of England hit back said after the Poppy Day attack: 'It is not the role of clergy to establish the legitimacy of asylum claims and to assess security implications. 'We are not aware of any evidence to suggest a widespread correlation between conversion to Christianity, or any other faith, and abuse of the asylum system'. Above: Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

After the Poppy Day attack, the Church of England responded that it was not their role to determine the legitimacy of asylum applications and assess the security consequences. We don’t have any evidence suggesting a strong correlation between abuse of the asylum system and conversion to Christianity. Above: Justin Welby Archbishop of Canterbury

2017 was a year in which the Church of England (C of E), chose to support asylum seekers in its Presence and Engag Programme. This programme is designed to help clergy who live in churches where one-tenth of the population follows a non Christian faith.

That year, the General Synod, the Church’s governing body, advised clergy that where someone has already had an asylum application turned down, a conversion to Christianity would boost the chances of a successful new claim — seemingly issuing instructions to facilitate conversions when an original appeal has failed.

‘Note that if the person has converted to Christianity after a previous refusal, that may be the basis of a fresh claim,’ noted the text entitled ‘Supporting Asylum Seekers — Guidance for Church of England Clergy’.

It states clearly that “convincing evidence” will be needed. Examples include: testimony from a pastor, evidence of conversion or persecution in the country they live in and laws from that country which punish apostasy.

Calvin Robinson, CofE coordinate for Holy Orders training to the priesthood was struck by the clear message.

‘It’s a demonstration for the clergy — it’s saying in black and white the way to do it. 

Let’s get it done. 

“Here’s a loophole. Baptise anyone and they’ll be able to make another claim.” This is an abuse of the Sacrament of Baptism.

In 2017, he met retired Liverpool lay pastor Malcolm Hitchcott (left), and his wife Marion, both 77

They housed him for eight months, took him to Bible classes and welcomed him to their faith, culminating in his confirmation that year

Malcolm Hitchcott (left), a retired Liverpool lay pastor, and Marion Hitchcott (both 77) were his first encounter. He was housed by them for eight months. They took him to Bible class and welcomed him into their faith. 

“We face terrorists trying to infiltrate our country. The Church is complicit in this situation.” 

“The Archbishop should be clear about what this document means. It is offensive to me, a Christian.

Robinson claimed that he has spoken with CofE priests, vicars, and others who raised the matter and feel ‘discriminated towards’.

“One vicar explained to me that immigrant leaders would invite a group Muslim asylum seeker(s) to a church on Sunday. The request for baptism was made for the entire congregation, regardless of their time in the community. Three weeks later, the priest sent them back asking for letters. [to support asylum claims]He told Mail that he did.

“The vicars and lawyers are working together in order to rubber stamp these asylum claims.”

This coincides with churches’ drive to grow their congregations.

Almeni’s baptism occurred in 2015 at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral. It was enjoying some success with its congregation and welcoming prospective converts.

Average weekly attendance has risen to 702 in 2013, from 438. 

At the end of that year, Church Commissioners agreed £1 million of funding to roll out the cathedral’s ‘multiplying congregations’ scheme across the diocese.

Rakib Elhasan, who is an expert in radicalisation, terrorist at the Henry Jackson Society think tank, says that some parts of the church operate ‘almost as anti-deportation networks in the UK. 

He says that Anglican devotion had fallen in recent years. Is there an attempt to increase numbers or reverse the trend?

This is not a provocative position, however Church groups are acutely aware of the number of conversions that have occurred over time. 

The Rev Pete Wilcox was a former Dean in Liverpool and stated that he couldn’t recall a single instance of someone who had British citizenship, but converted to Christianity. 

“Once you’re a baptized Christian, it is not really possible for you to be deported into a Muslim nation.”

And Rev Mohammad Eghtedarian — a former curate at Liverpool Cathedral who is himself an Iranian refugee who converted to Christianity, and was later ordained — said the same year that ‘people are desperate for a better life and sometimes they will lie for it — that’s understandable’.

He said, “There’s a lot of people using the system,” he continued. He said, “I am not ashamed to admit that.” Is it the fault of the individual or the system?

Rev Sally Smith is a CofE Priest at St Mark’s Church Stoke-on-Trent and said that she had seen approximately 150 converts to Christianity.

“I would say that on probably 10-15 occasions, I will help people through this course. But there’s no way that I’d send a letter or aid someone to get to court if it wasn’t my belief they are genuine Christians.” she said to BBC Today.

«I’m not _____.» . . “We are not going to help you swap religious dogma in order to get asylum.

Although the total number of British asylum seekers who have converted to Christianity is not known, it seems that they are increasing.

Almeni, one of 200 refugees who converted to Christianity over four-years at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral. 200 Iranian asylum seeker were also baptized over five-years in Stockton-on-Tees.

Indeed, at the time of Almeni's baptism in 2015, Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral was having some success in boosting its congregation even as it embraced prospective converts

In fact, Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral had some success at growing its congregation, even though it was welcoming potential converts, when Almeni was baptized in 2015. 

Meanwhile, it took just one year [2016]One quarter of all confirmations by the Bishop at Bradford were for converts from Islam.

Along with Manchester, Stoke-on-Trent, Stockton and Bradford, Liverpool are the home of ‘dispersal centers’ where asylum seekers are accommodated before processing their claims for asylum.

These dispersal centres towns are home to many Christian churches that cater specifically for the emerging demographic.

Liverpool Cathedral holds a weekly Persian service that attracts up to 140 people. Meanwhile, St Mark’s Church in Stoke-on-Trent offers some Farsi services to accommodate its newly formed congregation of Kurdish-Iran immigrants up to 90%.

There is plenty of information available to help asylum seekers improve their chances in front of an immigration tribunal. 

A public document that the CofE issued in support of asylum seekers states, “If an asylum request is on religious grounds. [solicitors]The input of the clergy will help guide us. 

“Occasionally, a solicitor may not be sympathetic to Christian faith claims. In such cases it is better to look for another lawyer.”

The Joint Public Issues Team is a collaboration between the Methodist Church and the Baptist Union of Great Britain. It was created by an asylum lawyer who also belongs to the Methodist Refugee Working Group.

In 2018, the joint guidance provided advice on how clergy can help asylum seekers. It also provides guidelines for testifying before an immigration tribunal.

The document states that the Home Office could argue that Christians can safely return home to their homeland if they don’t declare their faith.

These people may claim that United Reformed Church members, for instance, don’t preach. 

“While it is not a good idea to try to create evidence of evangelistic activities, it may be worth affirming that the ability to evangelise makes Christianity possible.

The Joint Public Issues Team spokesperson stated that they have witnessed people from all religions being treated humanely under the current asylum system. . . [and]We will keep calling for an asylum system that gives all people equal access to justice.

We are now back at the case of Enzo Almeni, the Liverpool bomber. His first attempt to claim asylum as a refugee of Iraqi- and Jordanian descent failed in 2014. 

He completed the Alpha course on Christianity for five weeks and was then baptized at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral.

He met Malcolm Hitchcott (retired Liverpool lay pastor) and Marion Hitchcott (both 77). 

He was housed by them for 8 months. They took him to Bible class and welcomed him into their faith. His confirmation came in the end of that year.

He has made numerous asylum appeals over the years. Seven years after his arrival, there was still an appeal to asylum. 

A Home Office source said Almeni tried to use his Christianity during the asylum process, as if he was trying to “game the system”.

The Church of England retorted, saying that it was not their role to determine the legitimacy of asylum applications or to evaluate security implications. 

“We don’t know of any evidence that suggests a wide correlation between conversions to Christianity or other religions and the abuse of asylum systems.”

Although it declined to comment about the issue of guidance regarding conversions to assistance with second asylum claims but stressed that there was no evidence to suggest this was to increase congregational numbers,

Liverpool Cathedral declares that it is a ‘welcoming place. [asylum seekers]One way to engage is by joining a worshipping congregation. 

According to it, the company has developed robust processes for recognizing someone’s faith commitment prior to their application. This includes a connection with the community that lasts at least two year.

These processes have been shown to be extremely robust.