The Case of Atheist Asylum Seekers and the Category of ‘Religion’

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 09:30
Oral Presentation
Alan NIXON, Western Sydney University, Australia
In the last 10 years there has been increasing focus on the plight of non-religious and atheist peoples being persecuted in various countries. Some of this focus has come from cases brought to the attention of atheist organisations such as Atheist Alliance International, International Humanist and Ethical Union and local atheist groups. Cases are being reported by atheists in countries where their views are not acceptable and can end in imprisonment or death. For example, occurrences have been reported in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Morocco and Indonesia. Due to many of these countries being Muslim majority, there is also a strong connection to what has become known as the ‘ex-Muslim’ atheist movement. There have been general concerns over the status of non-religious and atheist refugees due to the wording of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The UN has recently (2016) confirmed the inclusion of non-religious and atheist refugees under the “religion” criteria and some countries, such as the UK and Canada have accepted refugees based on atheism as a religion. However, atheism as a religious category is not clearly accepted by all countries of asylum, with the US particularly being seen as an ambiguous case. This paper will look at the need for atheist asylum, atheist asylum cases, the structural difficulties for seekers and the organisations involved in the cases.