The number of leaders of foreign religions let into the UK is "unsustainable", immigration minister Damian Green said today. The revelation comes as Pope Benedict XVI prepares to visit the UK. The Vatican has strongly stressed the purpose of his visit is to meet privately with clerical abuse victims. A number of MP’s have expressed doubts however, claiming he may be planning to sneak away and go on the run, hiding amongst sympathetic Welsh Methodists in North Wales.
Home Office research suggests a fifth of religious heads are still in the UK, five years after being granted visas. The Zoroastrian faith head Akbar Dulali, is still being sought by immigration officials after disappearing from a fireworks display he was blessing in Ross on Wye. It was later discovered he caught a National Express bus to Swansea, changed his name to Haydon Flame and got a job with Corus steelworks. He eluded capture during an early morning raid on his boarding house.
In today’s speech, Damien Green questions whether the C of E is attracting the right type and number of religious leaders - with only half of the visas actually issued for large scale blessings and congregational meetings. He admitted that 25,000 tickets were sold when a prominent Muslin leader from Saudi Arabia visited in June, as a support act for the recent 80’s pop band, Muslim converts Quran Quran, but said this was a one off.
BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw says, “With an increasing number of new overseas religions forming, Mr Green is making reform of the religious leader immigration a priority.” He cites the case of Master Li Hongzhi, the head of the Falun Dafa religion. Master Li was deported in 2004 after an off duty immigration officer spotted him through the porthole window of a Chinese restaurant kitchen door in Stoke on Trent, preparing a dish of Hay Wrapped Fragrant Ribs.
The May 2008 visit by the Dalai Lama to Edinburgh became famous for violent clashes which ensued, when it unfolded that the heads of the Vajrayana, Madhyamaka and Yogacara Buddhist sects had also been mistakenly invited. The Chief Constable of the Lothian and Borders Constabulary said at the time, “The sight of blood smeared fighting monks, karate chopping their way along Princes Street, with injured lunchtime office workers taking the brunt of it all, will not be tolerated.”