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Friday, 26 June 2009

Call to protect persecuted athletes

City councillors are calling for measures to ensure that gay participants in next month’s World Outgames in Copenhagen are not forced to return home if they risk imprisonment or capital punishment for their sexual orientation.

It emerged yesterday that 85 participants in the nine-day sports, culture and human rights event come from countries where homosexuality is illegal, and a number of councillors say council leadership should lobby the state to ensure that participants can be granted political asylum or residence on humanitarian grounds if necessary.

‘If these participants will have problems returning home after being in Denmark, then we need to find some solution,’ said Social Liberal councillor Manu Sareen.

Pia Allerslev, head of the council’s Culture and Leisure Committee, called the matter an issue for the Foreign Ministry and immigration officials.

Officials on the Copenhagen organising committee, supported with 30 million kroner in city funding, said they were helping to ensure the safety of participants by allowing them to participate using an alias. So far 13 people have requested to do so.

Thorbjørn Nesjan, Outgames head of security, said other measures, such as suggesting that participants not march in the opening and closing ceremonies could also help protect identities.

Representatives from government and opposition parties in parliament said they had no plans to alter immigration laws to permit people to seek asylum based solely on participation in the Outgames.


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