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Friday, 28 March 2008

Peers support for Mehdi


Writing in The Independent the Peer who has led the campaign in the House of Lords in support of Mehdi, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, writes:

This is a matter of avoiding a breach of international law but, more than that, it is a matter of not sending a 19-year-old man, who has hurt nobody, to his death.

There is only one ethical course of action for the British government to take. A moratorium on removals to Iran for all those who fear execution. Indeed, the Home Office has gone some way to acknowledge such a principle. In its own guidance, its says that where anyone demonstrates their homosexual acts have brought them to the attention of the authorities so they face persecution they should be granted refugee status.

The Government will be aware that, since the ayatollahs came to reign in Iran, humanitarian organisations tell us that 4,000 lesbians and gay men have been executed in that country. What representations have Her Majesty's Government made and what representations do they continue to make about that policy? Can ministers assure us on behalf of the Government that no one, gay or otherwise, will be deported to any country where they will be persecuted, tortured or executed?
In a letter to the Independent, 17 members of the House of Lords, including the film director David Puttnam, the former Commons speaker Betty Boothroyd, and the human rights barrister Helena Kennedy QC, say the case of Mr Kazemi demonstrates a change of policy is now the "only moral course" for the Government to follow.
We welcome the decision of the Home Secretary to look again at Mr Kazemi's case and to reconsider the original decision to refuse him asylum in the United Kingdom. The Home Office have acted appropriately in this, as indeed they have acted within the law throughout this case.

However, this is not simply a legal matter but a moral one too... when we are making decisions of life or death, we must be aware of the human consequences of the cold letter of the law.
The Independent quotes a response to an earlier letter by 70 peers from Home Secretary Jacqui Smith:
I can assure you the Government is committed to providing protection for those individuals found to be genuinely in need in accordance with our commitments under international law.

The Home Office Country of Origin Information Service closely monitors the human rights situation in all the countries that generate asylum-seekers to the UK, including Iran. It provides accurate, objective, sourced and up-to-date information.

The published Country Reports are updated on a rolling basis and are compiled from a wide range of external information sources including the United Nations High Commission for Refugees World Health Organisation, human rights organisations, news media and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The current Home Office Iran Country Report was published on 31 January 2008 and includes a specific section on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Persons.
A report into Britain's immigration system published yesterday has described the treatment of refugees as "shameful."

Published by the Independent Asylum Commission, led by a former senior judge, it said the immigration policy denied sanctuary to some refugees who were in genuine need of help.

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