Monday, 22 September 2008

Labour reneges on gay asylum pledge

By Peter Tatchell

Harriet Harman fails to intervene to stop Babi Badalov's deportation

"New complaint procedure is worthless," says Tatchell

London – 22 September 2008

"Government ministers Harriet Harman and Barbara Follett have reneged on their undertaking to intervene in cases where LGBT asylum seekers are being unfairly treated by the Home Office," said Peter Tatchell of the LGBTI human rights group OutRage!

"The deportation of Babi Badalov shows that the complaints mechanism is worthless," he said.

Mr Tatchell was commenting on the ministers' failure to respond to his requests to halt the deportation on Saturday 20 September of gay asylum claimant Babi Badalov, who fled homophobic persecution in Azerbaijan.

"Deporting Mr Badalov back to Azerbaijan was heartless and reckless. His life is now in danger," added Mr Tatchell.

"Babi was deported, despite being in the process of filing a new asylum claim with fresh evidence. This new evidence includes threats to kill him by one of his brothers, on the grounds that he had bought shame to his family by being gay. There are also new witness statements detailing Babi's history of homophobic persecution in Azerbaijan.

"The Azerbaijani police are unable to protect him.

"In these circumstances, his removal should have been put on hold until he had an opportunity to put forward his new evidence to an asylum tribunal," said Mr Tatchell.

In a letter today to ministers Harman and Follett, Mr Tatchell writes:

"At my meeting with you in the Cabinet Office on 3 September, you agreed to establish a mechanism whereby I could report abuses and you would take action to put them right. But you have not fulfilled this pledge.

"I sent your office an email about the asylum claim of Babi Badalov on 18 September, requesting that you make representations to the Border Agency and Home Secretary to defer his deportation pending an asylum tribunal hearing to consider Babi's fresh claim based on new evidence.

"I made the case in my email, and by phone, to your staff; urging that the Home Office should not pre-judge that Babi's fresh evidence was flawed. I requested the Home Office to use its discretionary powers to give him a new asylum hearing where he could have his fresh evidence properly scrutinised and assessed by an adjudicator. To remove Babi without such a hearing would, I argued, be a denial of natural justice - and a violation of the principles of fairness which the Border Agency claims it upholds.

"I specifically requested by email and phone that you intervene to halt to Babi's removal.

"From what I was told late on Friday 19 September by Hannah Gregory, Camelia Thomas and Maggie McNally, you declined to make any representations to the relevant government ministers - Jacqui Smith and Liam Byrne - even though they were easily accessible to you at the Labour Party conference.

"I do not know or understand why you apparently ignored my request and sat on your hands, but it looks like a betrayal of the trust and commitment that I thought we had established at our meeting on 3 September.

"I came to that meeting willing to put the government's past failings on LGBT asylum issues to one side. I wanted to work with you to get things right.

"Now, at the first hurdle, those hopes are in ruins.

"Perhaps you could suggest how we might put the hopeful conclusions of our 3 September meeting back on track?

"I am still willing to engage and seek solutions, which must in future include some fail-proof mechanism for halting the unfair treatment of genuine LGBT refugees," concludes Mr Tatchell's letter.

This is Peter Tatchell's 18 September email to the Cabinet Office, requesting the assistance of Harriet Harman and Barbara Follet, to get Babi's deportation suspended:

The Cabinet Office
Women and Equality Minister, Harriet Harman MP

18 September 2008

Hi Andrew Tsolaki, Hannah Gregory and Maggie McNally,

URGENT ACTION - Babi Badalov - due for deportation this Saturday

When I recently met Harriet Harman, she and Barbara Follett said they would examine and assist the correction of any unfair treatment of LGBT asylum applicants.

Well, here is such a case and I need your help.

Babi Badalov, a gay asylum claimant from Azerbaijan, is due for deportation this Saturday 20 September at around 8pm on Azerbaijan Airlines flight J20008 from Heathrow. He is currently detained at Campsfield Immigration Removal Centre.

He is scheduled for deportation despite him being in the process of filing a new asylum claim with fresh evidence. This new evidence includes one of his brothers threatening to kill him on grounds that he had shamed the family by being gay. There are also new witness statements detailing Babi's history of violent, homophobic persecution in Azerbaijan.

In these circumstances, his removal should be put on hold until he has an opportunity to put forward this new evidence to an asylum tribunal.

I hope you agree.

Babi is an internationally-renowned poet and artist.

I would urge Harriet and Barbara to make immediate representations to the Home Secretary or Border Agency Minister to halt Mr Badalov's deportation, pending consideration of his fresh claim based on new evidence.

Can you please liaise between yourselves and confirm to me that this will be done?

Can you also advise me when Mr Badalov's removal has been halted and how long he will be granted to prepare a new claim?

My sincere appreciation.

Please phone me if you wish to discuss this case.

Many thanks, Peter Tatchell


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