Tuesday, 11 March 2008

News update

CNN obtained the following from the Home Office today (my emphasis):

In a written statement, Britain's Home Office said that even though homosexuality is illegal in Iran and homosexuals do experience discrimination, it does not believe that homosexuals are routinely persecuted purely on the basis of their sexuality

This is the first time anyone has got them to actually state this.

Dutch radio: Netherlands Democratic MP Boris Ham has asked Deputy Justice Minister Nebahat Albayrak to discuss the matter with the UK authorities to prevent Mr Kazemi being deported to Iran.

Interview by frictiontv with Omar Kuddus of the Uk gayasylum group about the Mehdi Kazemi case. This interview was conducted prior to the Dutch court's decision to return Mehdi to the UK.

Strong CNN story (link to video) today (thanks Alphonso) includes Mehdi's uncle, Simon Hughes and Peter Tatchell. It also quotes the Home Office policy.

From Saturday 8th, interview with Pegah Emambakhsh (NB: RealAudio, media may not be available for more than a week) and Lady Haleh Afshar on the Today Show (Radio 4).

Pegah transcript:

If the British government could prove to me that I would be safe in Iran and to be able to lead a normal life and to be myself I would be very happy to go back to Iran. I had to leave my old father, my ill mother and young sister. I have two lovely children which their father took away from me. i had to give this all up because my life was at risk. At the moment I was safe because I am in England but my life is very difficult. I miss my family and more than anything I am worried all the time that the police will suddenly arrest me and send me back.
Today said that the Home Office has agreed to accept new legal representation for her, despite her losing her last appeal in January.

The interviewer, Edward Stourton, asked if Iranians would pretend to be gay if Home Office policy changed. Haleh Afshar pointed out that there is an enormous social taboo against lesbians and gays.

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, said today that the organisation is "deeply disturbed" about his case.
"There is incontrovertible evidence that lesbian and gay people face danger in Iran and we will be raising this once again with the Home Secretary."
A question of ethics, editorial from newspaper of leading US university Rutgers.

FoxNews story.

British gay MEP Michael Cashman will raise Mehdi's case in the European Parliament later this week.

A Dutch newspaper today quotes Mehdi's Dutch lawyer B. Palm (sorry, Google translation) on what legal hopes there are:
A country may grant asylum even if someone has already made an application in another European country. The Netherlands has a different view on the situation of homosexuals in Iran than Britain. The rules assume that a person seeking asylum in any European country has an equal chance to get asylum. In this case this is not the case.
He hopes that Secretary for Justice Albayrak, who Aliens Office, the matter pull and ensure that Mehdi not returning to Iran.

She is also being lobbied by Dutch MP Boris van der Ham Kamervragen.

Writing in The Irish Times, Quentin Fottrell expresses concern that
The British government isn't the only one tightening the screws on the asylum process of late: our own is keen to clear a backlog of 9,427 asylum applications it has racked up since 2000 . . . one way or another. And, because, where the UK leads on asylum/immigration issues, we invariably follow.

Ireland doesn't give numbers on gay refugee cases, and many are unlikely to declare their sexuality for fear of being "outed" and having to go back if their case is refused, like Kazemi. On that basis, Muslims from brutal regimes are unlikely to make a "study" of gay refugee cases. It would be too hazardous if they failed. Many more have hidden their sexuality their whole life and they choose other reasons for seeking asylum.

On the upside, one Irish lawyer told me he has successfully processed 30 cases of gay refugees, helped by the fact that the 1996 Refugee Act and the new Bill cite sexual orientation under "social group" as a basis for seeking asylum. Dublin-based gay teenage group Belong2 have also worked with several gay teenage refugees. Their two most recent cases - from Albania and Kenya - are now studying in college.

However, direct provision centre staff need more intercultural training, especially on bullying. I've heard of three cases, one of a gay Romanian man who left his accommodation in Cork due to harassment, a Kenyan man in Dublin ostracised because he was damned if he was going to deny his sexuality after everything he had been through, and a Kenyan lesbian in accommodation who hides her sexuality to survive.


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