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Saturday, 30 January 2010

Are Gay Iranians Being Deported from European Countries on ‘Erroneous Information’?

Source: UK Gay News commentary

Published earlier this month, a new report on information used by the UK Border Agency to make decisions on asylum cases found that reports on the situation for gays in Iran are “sub-standard or erroneous”.

And in the case of deporting gays back to Iran, and a few other countries, any mistake could well be lethal.

The report deals with the situation in the United Kingdom. But one wonders if there is a similar flaw in the Norwegian system where 40-years-old gay Iranian Asghar Hedayati could well be on the brink of deportation following his application for asylum six-and-a-half years ago.

From what he claims, he has had a number of appeals to the immigration department turned down. But he has not, he says, had his day in a court of law. Certainly, he has no access to a specialist immigration/asylum lawyer, he reports.

There is no way of checking on this as the Norwegian authorities are like the UK Border Agency inasmuch as individual cases are never discussed.

On their Website, LLH (Norwegian LGBT Association) wrote last November that “gay asylum seekers need protection”. The article, in Norwegian, which can be read HERE (in English through Google translator), addresses gay Iraqis and the problems they face with asylum applications in Norway.

But if there are major difficulties for Iraqis, it is fair to assume that it is the same for gay Iranians.

It could well be that gays seeking refuge in Norway from tyranny in their home country are in much the same position as those in the United Kingdom – they are playing a game of refugee roulette.

And “Refugee Roulette” is the title of a report produced by the UK Immigration Advisory Service (IAS) which found that recommendations from a previous review on improvements to use of Country of Origin Information (COI) had not been followed up.

COI is, of course, an important part of the refugee status determination process.

The IAS report noted that in the Iran COI report there is a paragraph that talks about “a park in Tehran where homosexuals can meet”. This paragraph is regularly relied upon to refuse a claim for protection on the basis that gays can exist ‘discretely’ in Iran.

This is something that does not quite tally with gay Iranians in Terhan who were filmed by a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation television news crew three years ago is this particular park. (The video report is no longer available on the CBC’s Website, but it is now on YouTube – links are at the end of this commentary).

Meeting other gays in this park is dangerous, CBC was told. One gay Iranian said on camera it was “suicidal”

Perhaps a copy of this video should be part of the COI folder on Iran?

In UK appeal cases, the paragraph on the park is often used – and has shown to be wrong, as has the translation of the Iranian law on homosexuality, which provides for the death penalty for ‘lavat’ (sodomy).

IAS says in its report that “this point still has not been rectified and exists in the Iran COI report of August 2009”.

In December the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), the Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO), and COC of the Netherlands launched an appeal for twelve youths under sentence of death for ‘lavat’. Their statement noted that in Iran “rather than paying attention to evidence, the judge often sentences defendants to death based on his speculations”.

With the support of Pride London, an Iranian gay man recently won asylum in UK. Just a few days earlier he spoke of his plight and what it was like to be gay in Iran to a Pride London meeting.

However, his ‘victory’ was on appeal as the Home Office said he should be returned to Iran as he only needed to keep his head down, be “discrete and not show that he was gay”.

Spain recently accepted its first gay Iranian for asylum. He had been arrested and tortured for a week by Iranian police who shouted “fags, the next day we will kill you” at him.

Now Norway is preparing to deport Iranian gay man, Asghar Hedayati, on the same “be discrete” basis which forms the apparent Home Office/UK Border Agency policy.

The ‘discrete’ theory does seem to be an amazing thing for a government to say – and UK Gay News has been in two Home Office appeals tribunals and actuall heard the “judge” (not a real judge but a chairman, apparently appointed by the Home Office) say the very same thing.

The IRS Report says that the Home Office policy documents, which have country specific guidance on particular asylum seeking groups for decision makers, are “not monitored by an independent monitoring body and arguably selected on the basis of policy considerations”.

And it is not only gay men who are treated this way by the UK government. Gay women are, as well. Remember Pegah Emanbakhsh?

“[Refugee Roulette] underlines what case workers, lawyers and campaigners have been saying for years – the system is riddled with homophobia,” says Paul Canning of LGBT Asylum News.

“Both Phil Woolas and, previously, Jacqui Smith have said that it is safe to send gays back to Tehran so long as they are “discrete”. Now we have the evidence showing that the advice they based this on was thoroughly flawed.

“Given the situation in Iran, it is high time Ministers intervened and shook up the system.

“It is sheer hypocrisy for the government to trumpet the Foreign Office’s pro-LGBT human rights strategy at the same time as we are sending gay people back to death zones like Iran, “ he suggested.

As one former UK Home Secretary famously said, the Home Office is “not fit for purpose”. And rarely does a senior politician actually tell the truth.

The bottom line to the entire situation in the UK is that, when it comes to the way gay men and women who are seeking refuge from violent persecution – even incarceration for life or death – in their own country, the government is practicing a form of ‘mental torture’ on some applicants.


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