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Thursday, 6 March 2008

The shame of gay asylum in the UK

Peter Tatchell wrote the following in 1996 in CIF about the UK's attitude to gay asylum seekers.

He has long experience of personally helping many, so he knows of what he speaks:

The failure to give refuge to the victims of genuine homophobic persecution is the single greatest blot on the gay rights record of Tony Blair's administration.
Too right. Jacqui Smith is complicit, as were her predecessors and let's not forget the gay and lesbian people in power who've stood by.
From my day-to-day work with asylum seekers, I hear first hand shocking stories about homophobic abuse and inhumane conditions inside the UK's asylum detention centres, including allegations of homophobic insults, beatings and sexual assaults. Frightened refugees, who have narrowly escaped death and seen their partners murdered, are treated like common criminals..

Asylum adjudicators nearly always turn down gay refugee claims, even when the person has presented evidence of imprisonment, rape and torture. Adjudicators often acknowledge their brutal maltreatment but advise claimants that they will not be at risk of repeat persecution if they go back home, change their identity, stop acting effeminately, never have sex and move to a remote part of the country where no one knows them. That way, says the Home Office, nobody will realise the person is gay and therefore they will not suffer persecution..
This is the reality of how some gay people are dealt with by this government. I, for one, don't want these fellow gay people ignored — I can't ignore them, I can imagine myself in their shoes and I know full well how lucky I am to have been born here.

As Peter explains:
The Home Office does not explicitly accept persecution on the grounds of sexual orientation as a legitimate basis for gaining asylum.
Unlike Amnesty International, who will fight for persecuted gay people, and some other European and other governments.

Our government, which preaches human rights via the Foreign Office, has done much to advance gay and lesbian rights. Two years after this article it is time that someone in government did something about this stain - of blood - on that record.

Peter Tatchell told the Independent:

"It is just the latest example of the Government putting the aims of cutting asylum numbers before the merits of individual cases. The whole world knows that Iran hangs young, gay men and uses a particularly barbaric method of slow strangulation. In a bid to fulfil its target to cut asylum numbers the Government is prepared to send this young man to his possible death. It is a heartless, cruel mercenary anti-refugee policy."
In a rare BBC story about this issue from last year, one Iranian gay man who was deported in 2003 describes how the ill treatment began as soon as he touched down in Tehran.

Here's another story about a man who shot himself between the eyes with an airgun rather than be deported.


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