Priti Patel vows to overhaul system in wake of Liverpool terror attack

‘Our asylum merry-go-round’: Priti Patel vows to overhaul system in wake of Liverpool hospital terror attack after it emerged suicide bomber stayed in Britain after being refused permission to remain

  • Emad Al Swealmeen lost bid to stay in Britain in 2014 but had an appeal outstanding when he blew himself up 
  • The appeal meant the Home Office was unable to deport him in the intervening seven years 
  • Ms Patel said the attack was a ‘reflection’ on the ‘dysfunctional’ and ‘broken’ asylum system 

The Liverpool hospital bomber exploited the UK’s asylum ‘merry-go-round’, Priti Patel said last night.

Emad Al Swealmeen lost his bid to stay in Britain in 2014 but still had an appeal outstanding when he blew himself up on Sunday.

The appeal meant the Home Office was unable to deport him in the intervening seven years. 

Pledging to overhaul the asylum system, Home Secretary Miss Patel declared: ‘The case in Liverpool was a complete reflection of how dysfunctional, how broken, the system has been in the past, and why I want to bring changes forward.

‘It’s a complete merry-go-round and it’s been exploited by a whole professional legal services industry which has based itself on rights of appeal, going to the courts day in day out on legal aid at the expense of the taxpayers.’

More than 1,000 migrants are thought to have crossed to Britain in small boats yesterday. Traffickers were seen leading hopefuls carrying dinghies to the water at first light without a French patrol in sight.

Hundreds began arriving on the Kent coast from 8am, with boatloads turning up all day and into the evening.

The Liverpool hospital bomber exploited the UK’s asylum ‘merry-go-round’, Priti Patel said last night. Emad Al Swealmeen lost his bid to stay in Britain in 2014 but still had an appeal outstanding when he blew himself up on Sunday

The appeal meant the Home Office was unable to deport him in the intervening seven years. Above: The aftermath of the blast outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital

With investigators yet to find any evidence that the Liverpool Women’s Hospital bomber had terror links:

  • One theory is that frustration over his asylum battle resulted in Al Swealmeen having a mental health crisis;
  • But sources said no one raised the alarm about the 32-year-old’s behaviour;
  • Detectives have determined that he did not use triacetone triperoxide, an explosive known as ‘Mother of Satan’;
  • Friends revealed the would-be pizza chef was so car mad that he nicknamed himself ‘GT’ – for ‘gran turismo’ – and was obsessed with the singer Johnny Cash;
  • Police released without charge four men in their 20s who were arrested under terrorism laws following Sunday’s attack.

The revelations about how Al Swealmeen was able to remain in the UK raise serious concerns over flaws in the asylum process that can undermine national security.

A former minister said the case strengthened the Government’s argument for tearing up the Human Rights Act to make it easier to deport failed asylum seekers.

‘This looks like an awful example of what happens when bogus asylum seekers are not sent back and their minds turn to terror,’ said Tory MP Sir John Hayes.

Pledging to overhaul the asylum system, Home Secretary Miss Patel declared: ‘The case in Liverpool was a complete reflection of how dysfunctional, how broken, the system has been in the past, and why I want to bring changes forward

‘Who knows what other horrors we are importing with this broken system?’

He said the Act allowed ‘people, aided and abetted by fat cat legal aid lawyers and bleeding heart liberals to delay proceedings with spurious claims for years’.

Migration Watch UK, which campaigns for tougher border controls, said the case could be the ‘tip of the iceberg’. Alp Mehmet, the group’s chairman, added: ‘It points to the dysfunctional depths into which our shattered asylum system has sunk. 

‘Why this person was not removed or detained having been denied asylum is utterly baffling. We need to know.’

David Videcette, a former 7/7 counter-terror detective at Scotland Yard, said it was time for ‘grown-up conversations’ about the potential threat from failed asylum seekers. 

‘There are repeated examples across Europe of terrorists infiltrating migrant flows,’ he said. ‘Then, when found out, after exhausting the asylum appeals system, they resort to type and attack their host country at that point.

‘There has to be a better system for dealing with thousands of unknown people, with no documents, claiming they are someone or something they are not.’

Al Swealmeen is understood to have moved legally to the UK in 2014 from Dubai, where he spent his teenage years after allegedly being abused by his Syrian father.

Later that year his initial asylum application was turned down. It is understood his claim was ‘not compliant’ with Home Office rules. 

But he lodged a succession of appeals against the ministry’s decisions to deny him refugee status.

In 2015 he was baptised as a Christian at Liverpool’s Anglican cathedral, one of around 200 asylum seekers to adopt the faith there over a four-year period.

Counter-terror police are now treating the cathedral as a potential target. It was hosting a Remembrance Day service when Al Swealmeen’s bomb partially detonated a mile away in a minicab outside the maternity hospital.

His legal challenges were still under way when he died in the failed bomb attack. It is understood Al Swealmeen’s adoption of Christianity did not play a role in his asylum claims. 

More than 1,000 migrants are thought to have crossed to Britain in small boats yesterday. Traffickers were seen leading hopefuls carrying dinghies to the water at first light without a French patrol in sight

But conversions are ‘standard practice’ among some asylum seekers who seek to avoid removal, sources said.

Al Swealmeen, who changed his name to Enzo Almeni after becoming a Christian, made a fresh asylum application in 2017 but this was rejected two years later.

Forensic officers yesterday continued the delicate task of searching the ‘bomb factory’ in Rutland Avenue, Liverpool, which Al Swealmeen rented in apparent preparation for the attack. 

North-west counter-terror chief Russ Jackson said the investigation was moving ‘at a fast pace’.

Miss Patel has pledged the biggest shake-up of immigration laws in a generation. Her plans include strict limits on the types of asylum appeals that applicants can use.

Additional reporting: Liz Hull, Emine Sinmaz and Rebecca Camber 

POPPY DAY HOSPITAL EXPLOSION: HOW EVENTS UNFOLDED ON REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY 

Sunday, November 14 

10.57am: The taxi pulls up at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital and explodes seconds later.

10.59am: The vehicle is fully engulfed just before the national silence for Remembrance Sunday. 

The passenger was killed and the driver was left with serious injuries. The latter is said to have spotted the explosives, ‘jumped’ from the car and locked the other man inside. 

At the time, a remembrance service involving scores of military personnel, veterans and civic dignitaries, was taking place at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral less than a mile away. There are reports the taxi parked at the hospital because it could not get any closer to the Cathedral.

11.04am: Police and emergency services arrive at the scene, and it is initially thought the car might have caught alight because of a fuel leak.

1pm: Officers, who are believed to have spoken to hero taxi driver David Perry, announce the incident is being treated as an act of terrorism.

4.54pm: Police seal off Rutland Avenue (right). Around a mile from the blast. Locals said armed police ordered residents to leave and head to a nearby leisure centre, saying the area ‘wasn’t safe’ and were ‘pointing guns at a house’. Counter-terror negotiators were also called to the scene.

6.59pm: The men – aged 29, 26, and 21 – were detained in the Kensington area of the city and arrested under the Terrorism Act.

Monday, November 15 

3.30am: The operation at the Rutland Avenue address appears to wind down.

10am: Footage of the explosion emerges on CCTV from the scene.

Midday: Police confirm it is being treated as a terror attack. And a man, 20, becomes the fourth suspect arrested

3pm: After raising the UK terror threat level to ‘severe’, speaking at a press conference at Downing Street, the Prime Minister said the blast was a ‘stark reminder’ to the public to remain vigilant, adding: ‘What yesterday showed above all is that the British people will never be cowed by terrorism, we will never give in to those who seek to divide us with senseless acts of violence.

‘And our freedoms and our way of life will always prevail.’

7pm: MailOnline names the suicide bomber as asylum seeker  Enzo Almeni, 32, a Muslim who converted to Christianity four years ago. He changed his name from Emad Jamil Al Swealmeen.

Tuesday November 16

7am: Four suspects who are said to have known Almeni a and were arrested in armed raids were released without charge 

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