By Dominic Casciani-Home and legal correspondent
Emad Al Swealmeen was the passenger in a taxi which was destroyed by his bomb
New details have emerged about the Liverpool bomber Emad Al Swealmeen’s failed asylum attempts – and the false information he used to make his cases.
A previously confidential 2015 asylum judgment reveals how his claim of being a Syrian refugee lacked basic facts about his home and the danger he faced.
Al Swealmeen, an Iraqi, lost that case but the Home Office did not remove him before he tried again under a new name.
The Home Office will not comment on his case and no review has been announced.
It is not clear whether officials spotted his second application from checking his fingerprint records.
But the papers raise further questions about why he was not removed from the UK before the attack.
Al Swealmeen, 32, was killed when his bomb went off inside a taxi at Liverpool Women’s Hospital on Remembrance Sunday in November.
The driver escaped seconds before the vehicle was engulfed in flames and was taken to hospital, but did not suffer life-threatening injuries. Nobody else was hurt.
The fresh details about Al Swealmeen’s asylum claim are in the 2015 judgment from the tribunal that rules on appeals against Home Office immigration decisions.
It shows how he told obvious lies in an attempt to stay in the UK.
According to the documents, released after legal representations from BBC News, Al Swealmeen arrived in the UK on 30 April 2014 and claimed asylum six days later.
He claimed to be fleeing from his native Syria, which was then in the grip of a worsening civil war.
But it was all untrue.
Emad al-Swealmeen and the UK:
- October 1989: Born in Baghdad
- December 2013: Applied for a visitor’s visa and is fingerprinted
- April 2014: Arrived and sought asylum
- November 2014: Rejected and appealed
- April 2015: Lost appeal
- August 2015: Lost challenge to that appeal
- Unknown date in 2017: Applied again under a new name
- By end of 2020: Lost that second claim
- January 2021: Lodged another appeal
During his interview with a Home Office assessor, Al Swealmeen confirmed he had been living in the United Arab Emirates for 14 years and gave a vague account about returning to Syria to visit family, despite the raging conflict.
He said he had then left out of fear for his life, returned to the UAE and flown on to the UK to claim asylum.
That flight, on a genuine Jordanian passport, came four months after he had already applied for a UK visa – meaning that British immigration officials had a copy of his fingerprints before he arrived.
When a Home Office asylum case worker questioned Al Swealmeen closely about his travels, he couldn’t explain why he had been in danger or describe his purported family’s situation in Syria – such as basic facts about the geography of where they lived.
An expert in Arabic also analysed Al Swealmeen’s speech and concluded he was almost certainly Iraqi.
Al Swealmeen was housed in Liverpool while he waited for a decision – which came in a rejection letter in November 2014.
He then appealed – but did not attend the 2015 hearing in Manchester.
He had been detained under the Mental Health Act, after he had been found waving a knife at people in a Liverpool underpass.
The judge handling the case concluded that Al Swealmeen’s account was straightforward and so lacking in credibility that it could be dealt with immediately.
“His account of his time in Syria gives the impression of someone quoting information that is in the public domain rather than having first-hand experience,” ruled the judge.
“The appellant did not identify himself with any particular faction or indicate that he would be at risk other than in a general sense.
“In view of all of the evidence, I reject his account of events in Syria and his fears on his return in their entirety and dismiss his asylum appeal.”
That conclusion meant the Home Office had the green light to send Al Swealmeen back to Iraq or Jordan, as it had previously warned him it would do.
During 2015 and the years that followed, the government was forcibly sending some people back to both countries – but Emad Al Swealmeen was not one of them.
Enforced returns were falling during this period as the government pursued its so-called “hostile environment” policies designed to encourage people to leave of their own choice.
Presents himself as Christian
Instead of going, Al Swealmeen tried to appeal again in August 2015, failed, and then joined Liverpool Cathedral’s course on the foundations of Christianity, presenting himself as a potential convert.
By 2017 he had converted and Malcolm and Elizabeth Hitchcott, a couple who volunteered in the local Christian community, gave him a bed.
It’s around this time he made a new asylum application under the name Enzo Almeni.
As part of that claim, officials would have expected him to volunteer his fingerprints, so they could verify he had not claimed before – but it’s not clear whether these checks were carried out.
The Home Office eventually rejected this second application – but instead of being removed from the UK, Al Swealmeen was yet again able to lodge an appeal in January 2021. That challenge was outstanding when he detonated his homemade bomb.
The Home Office has declined to comment on the specific circumstances of Emad Al Swealmeen’s case but said it was “fixing the broken asylum system” in its current legislation.
“The new plan for immigration will require people to raise all protection-related issues up front, to tackle the practice of making multiple and sequential claims and enable the removal of those with no right to be in our country more quickly,” said a spokesman.