The petition to Gordon Brown supporting lesbian and gay asylum seekers is in its final week and we are writing to ask for a final push for its support from you. The deadline is 7 March.
The signatures currently stand at 4,000. They include a number of prominent individuals such as the actors Simon Callow, Ian Flintoff and Cathy Tyson, musicians Andrew Oldham and Tom Robinson, playwright Jonathan Harvey, Green MEPs Caroline Lucas and Jean Lambert, Conservative MEP John Bowis, Labour MEPs Eluned Morgan, Claude Moraes and Glenys Kinnock, Mick Houghton, Secretary Greater London Association of Trade Union Councils, Chair of The Gender Trust Rebecca Dittman, authors Neil Forsyth and Bob Cant, activist Peter Tatchell, architect Yvonne Dean, Professors Ken Mortimer MBE and A.P.M. Coxon, former Cambridge Mayor Jennie Bailey, London Assembly Member Darren Johnson, LibDem MPs Lynne Featherstone, Lorely Burt, Tom Brake and Jo Swinson, Labour MP Celia Barlow and former Minister Stephen Twigg. As well, a large group of signatorees are Christian ministers.
The petition at http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/Stopdeportinggay/ was initiated by the Reverend Walter Attwood when the young Iranian asylum seeker Mehdi Kazemi's case was in the news. Unfortunately the position of the Home Office has not changed and they continue to insist that gays and lesbians can be sent back to unsafe countries 'so long as they are discrete'. It was only due to the massive publicity which Mehdi's case engendered that he was saved.
Given that the numbers of cases are so small and the situations which people are fleeing from so well documented, their stance is completely untenable.
It is also well-documented that homophobia exists in the Home Office so we simply do not believe their position that these cases are given 'due and fair consideration'.
The Canadian Immigration Minister has just announced that he will consider using the services of lesbian and gay immigration groups to help bring genuine asylum seekers from Iran to his country. We believe that the Home Office should consider doing the same here. These groups are best positioned to weed out the genuine cases - those people who should be welcomed here as their cases are formally assessed.
For the government to do otherwise would, we believe, highlight its hypocrisy when it comes to the situation of lesbians and gays overseas.
The Foreign Office has made great play of its efforts to oppose homophobia internationally, such as through flying the rainbow flag at the Polish embassy. At the same time another government department treats those lesbians and gays fleeing the worst persecution appallingly. As you may be aware, the Home Office has been ordered by a judge to find and return to the UK one African gay asylum seeker it violently conned and literally threw on a plane last year.
We believe that the British people do not support the policies and actions of the Home Office. We believe that they recognise lesbians and gays fleeing regimes such as Iran as genuine asylum seekers of the sort this country has historically made welcome here.
Please urge everyone you know to sign the petition so as many people as possible can send this message to Gordon Brown:
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to stop deporting gays and lesbians to countries where they may be imprisoned, tortured or executed because of their sexuality.
Paul Canning for Lesbian and gay asylum news
The text of this message is available for publication. For comment please call Paul Canning on 07986 008420.
Only UK residents and citizens can sign the petition.
Visit our website, LGBT asylum news (formally Save Medhi Kazemi) for background information
Sunday, 1 March 2009