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Thursday, 30 September 2010

Gay Kenyans demonstrate for improved health

By Denis Nzioka

The Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK) was requested to participate in a march on September 28th from 8.30am at the Ministry of Health (Afya House) to Ministry of Planning and Ministry of Finance (Treasury) to push for increased funding for the health system and HIV and AIDS.

According to the World Health Organisation it is recommended that governments allocate at least 15% of their annual budgets to health. Kenya allocated only 7% in this financial year thus prompting the civil society and health service providers to demonstrate and push for greater funding.

Gay Kenya mobilised its staff and members and marched together. Carrying the Gay Kenya banner with the message 'Health For All Now: Access to health services for Kenyan Sexual Minorities NOW!' they marched, shouted and walked hand in hand with the rest to push for this important agenda.

Many other groups including University students, people with disabilities and other Human Rights networks were also in participation.

The greatest value for us is that we are increasingly gaining recognition as legitimate members of the civil society in Kenya.

The march could not have come at an appropriate time since September 27th each year is celebrated as the National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day; a day to not only bring attention to and promote understanding of the disproportionate burden of HIV among gay and bisexual men, but also to recommit ourselves to the fight to end this devastating epidemic.

We at Gay Kenya would personally like to thank the Gay Kenya Staff members who took part in this march - Denis, Simon, Maurice - members of Other Sheep Kenya, GALCK and David Kuria, all the LGBTI individuals who personally came and all the other participants who marched hand in hand with us to make this a successful initiative.

For more pictures visit our Facebook Page.

What if a Russian gay leader was kidnapped + nobody protested?

Photo of the arrest of Nikolai Alekseev at Mos...Image via Wikipedia 
By Paul Canning

Two weeks ago the leader of Russia's embattled LGBT movement Nikolai Alekseev was kidnapped for three days by unknown forces. He was interrogated and, he thinks, drugged and then dumped 100km from Moscow after being picked up with the connivance of Swiss Air Lines whilst trying to board a plane to Geneva.

Since then the French Foreign Minister and the German government have formally asked questions and, as Alekseev has requested, asked for an inquiry by the Russian government.

But other government's have either said nothing or refused to protest to the Russians. The latest being Canada. Xtra! documents how the Canadian government felt able to protest Uganda's 'Kill the gays' bill but not Alekseev's kidnap. Instead they are 'monitoring'.

LGBT Asylum News is aware that requests for a protest have gone from MPs to the British and Australian Foreign Ministries, whose Moscow embassies are also presumably 'monitoring' (the events have been big news there) but preferring to say nothing publicly.

The lack of interest in protesting Russia's repression of LGBT is not new. In June an appeal went out from Russian activists to support Moscow's gay pride march, banned and violently stopped for several years by the homophobic former Mayor, to European embassies. The EU and particular government's, such as the UK, has been proudly flying the rainbow flag in those Eastern European EU members like Bulgaria and Latvia who have either banned pride marches or otherwise not supported LGBT rights. But not in Moscow, no support shown there.

The United States too has shown no support. Several US Congresspeople, LGBT Asylum News is aware, have asked the State Department to take an interest but it hasn't made any statement. This, again, follows a pattern. Last year Hillary Clinton visited Moscow to unveil a statue of the gay American poet Walt Whitman. Activists appealed to her to use the opportunity to support LGBT rights in Russia. She didn't.

The organizers of St Petersburg Pride asked the US Consulate in St. Petersburg in July to help in advance of St. Petersburg Pride by screening a documentary, Beyond Gay, the Politics of Pride, which features the differences between several Gay Prides around the world, like New York, Vancouver, Sao Paulo, Moscow, Warsaw. The Americans refused, and the excuse was: “We cannot show a Canadian documentary in the US consulate.”

Clinton has spoken to US audiences about her support for LGBT rights internationally, as have EU Foreign Ministers - apparently this solidarity doesn't include Russia.

Interviewed by Doug Ireland in August, Alekseev said that Russia prior to 9/11 was often criticised internationally for human rights abuses but after, not so much: "You know, if tomorrow the Kremlin starts to put us in jail, do you think someone will care? Does someone care when human rights activists are arrested? Not anymore. They used to care," said Alekseev.
"Europeans have experienced the collateral damages of the fight between Russia and Ukraine on the issue of imported natural gas. When Russia switched off the gas to Ukraine, Western Europe started to be cold as well. The Europeans understand that they have limited margin of maneuver with Russia... Human rights activists in Russia are the hostages of this geopolitics. And I am including us in that pot."
Despite the lack of international support, Russia's gay activists fight on, arrests after arrests after arrests, and have just scored a significant victory.

For the first time the Moscow government has approved a protest. It's of Swiss Air Lines at Moscow's airport, calling for a boycott of the company which allowed Alekseev to be carted off by Russian security agents despite him past Russian customs at the terminal and legally in international territory. They also asked for a fee when he returned to retrieve the bag he thought stowed on the plane. He wants compensation and an apology.
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More concern over EU deportations to Iraq, demonstration planned

In my plane - sky & CloudsImage by Simon-And-You via Flickr  Source: IRIN

(Our note: although no LGBT cases are cited, as UNHCR says, information on cases has not been provided to them so returnees could include LGBT. Also, as one knowledgeable person told us, it is perfectly possible that closeted LGBT could be amongst the returnees.)

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has expressed concern about the growing number of deportations of Iraqi asylum-seekers from Western Europe in the last two months.

Special charter flights to take failed asylum-seekers home have increased in frequency, and Iraqis are being returned to parts of the country which are still unsafe, in contravention of UNHCR guidelines for the handling of Iraqi asylum applications, it says.

The deportations are handled by Frontex, a Warsaw-based agency set up to coordinate operations between European Union (EU) member states in the field of border security, and their planes can carry returnees from several different countries. The most recent (on 22 September) had failed asylum applicants from Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and the UK.

Destinations included Baghdad, Ninawa, Kirkuk and Salah ad-Din - all areas the UNHCR considers unsafe.
One of the UNHCR’s complaints is that the information provided by those countries is usually sketchy, varies from country to country and is given only very late in the process. In the case of last week’s flight, Sweden told the UNHCR the names and dates of birth of those being sent home, but not their destinations. The UK provided details of where its rejected claimants were going but not their identities.

UK asylum system mistreatment leading to 'millions' in compensation claims

Shamed be he who thinks ill of it (shamed be w...Image via Wikipedia  
Source: Guardian

By Matthew Taylor

Millions of pounds in compensation is being paid to migrants who have been traumatised after being locked up in detention centres across the UK, the Guardian has learned.

Government figures show £12m in "special payments" – including compensation – for 2009/10 and a further £3m the year before.

The Home Office said it did not record the proportion of special payments made in compensation, but officials accepted that the figure over the past three years ran to millions of pounds.

Lawyers who are acting for detainees said there was an "epidemic of mistreatment" in the asylum system.
Harriet Wistrich, of Birnberg Peirce, said there was a "systemic failure" to protect torture victims who came to the UK seeking refuge. "It is nothing short of scandalous that we are causing serious harm by detaining people, sometimes for long periods of time, who have done nothing other than seek a place of sanctuary from the horrors they have escaped from, in the mistaken belief that Britain is a just and tolerant society."

Shamik Dutta, of the law firm Fisher Meredith, said he had dealt with 15 or 20 cases in the past three years. "The callous and unlawful mistreatment of detainees is continuing, and is not just harming extremely vulnerable and damaged individuals but also costing the economy millions of pounds … it is clear there is an epidemic of mistreatment leading to civil claims going through the courts."

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Audio: Peter Tachell, LGBT asylum hero, awarded Blue Plaque

By Paul Canning

The British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has been awarded the unique honour of a Blue Plaque, located on the block of flats he has lived in in South London for many years. Blue Plaques are usually awarded to people who have died but he joked at a ceremony today that he is "very much alive".

LGBT Asylum News pays tribute to Peter for his longstanding work for LGBT asylum seekers.

Over many years working with colleagues in Outrage! and others Peter has both campaigned and personally supported many LGBT fleeing persecution only to face homophobia in the British asylum system. There is no doubt that a number of people now living safely in the UK owe their lives to Peter.

Although Peter's work in this area is not as visible as it has been he still works with and helps individuals and raises the issue behind the scenes and has worked with us on a number of cases, providing invaluable support, advice and contacts. He has also done amazing work supporting many activists in the 'Global South', again often unheralded and unpublicised.

Peter showed his usual humility today and praised the "team" who have supported him over the years. He has refused honours, including entering the House of Lords, previously but this one meant something special as it came from people local to where he lives. He absolutely deserves it.

Source: SE1

Audio of Sir Ian McKellen and Peter Tatchell (NB: audio is patchy)
Listen!

Audio of Cllr Veronica Ward and Simon Hughes MP (NB: audio is patchy)
Listen!
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Gay Israeli-Palestinian couple stuck in bureaucratic nightmare

Source: Haaretz

By Dana Weiler-Polak

Media attention has recently focused on the effort to obtain residency rights for children of foreign workers. But Majed Koka is not a foreign worker. He is a gay Palestinian man from the West Bank who came to Israel at age 14 because in his hometown of Nablus, he never could have lived openly as a gay man.

"If I returned to Nablus, it would be like throwing paper into a fire," said Koka, 26, who has been living in Tel Aviv for the last 12 years.
"If I returned I'd be in big trouble, one long nightmare."
For the last eight years, Koka has lived with a partner, an Israeli citizen. In 2002, the two even signed a partnership agreement and registered themselves as married with the municipality - though legally, the state does not recognize gay marriage.

In June 2009, Koka finally asked the Interior Ministry to grant him legal residency on humanitarian grounds. Fifteen months later, he has yet to receive a response.

Meanwhile, since he is here illegally, he is subject to frequent arrests; his lawyer is constantly fighting for his release. He has been arrested nine times over the last 12 years, Koka said.

Two-thirds of UK's immigration detainees are never deported

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - MARCH 09:  Asylum seekers ...Image by Getty Images via @daylife 

Source: The Independent


A damning new analysis of Britain’s “broken” immigration system reveals how two-thirds of people held in immigration removal centres for years at a time are never deported. Large numbers of detainees are from countries where diplomatic barriers make it near impossible to return them, according to a new study, published tomorrow.

Instead of being released until the situation changes, migrants are being kept behind bars for indefinite stretches. The policy has been criticised as costly and an abuse of human rights.

The report, No Return No Release No Reason, from the London Detainee Support Group (LDSG) traced 167 people detained for an average of 25 months and found that only one in three were ever deported.

Nearly half the detainees were from four countries, Algeria, Iran, Iraq and Somalia, all of which had barriers in the way of the detainees’ return: Somalis, for example, cannot be deported while the European Court of Human Rights considers the dangers that might be faced by those returned.

Working for LGBT rights in Zimbabwe

Source: zimbaradio

By Ricardo Sousa  

Interview with Chesterfield Samba, director of the Gays And Lesbians of Zimbabwe (Galz).

Q. The way I understood your profile is that your father is from Zambia and your mother is from Malawi. Why do you view yourself as a Shona man taking in consideration that your parents are not Shona people?

A: That profile fails to highlight that my parents are of Zambian and Malawian descent. I was born in Zimbabwe and grew up here so naturally I am shona.

Q. Now that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has joined President Robert Mugabe in dismissing calls to enshrine gay rights in the new constitution do you have anything in place to counter the calls or a way forward?

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

In Cameroon, are attitudes to LGBT changing for the better?

Flag-map of CameroonImage via Wikipedia
Source: Behind The Mask

Following a joint statement with Human Rights Watch (HRW), calling for the decriminalisation of consensual sexual acts between adults of the same sex, Alternatives Cameroon, a gay rights organisation, says it has now chosen to use revendication rather than a confrontational approach, since attitudes towards homosexuality issues seem to be slowly changing in the country.

Steave Nemande, Director of Alternatives Cameroon, said over the past few months, they have seen a slight improvement in the way the media are reporting on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) issues and how stakeholders are engaging with LGBTI organizations.

In their statement, Nemande said they were surprised by the fact that many radio and newspaper passed the message of decriminalisisng homosexuality on and “We felt that there was an improvement in their coverage which was more unbiased, and journalists seemed more informed and professional in their reporting.”

Nemande added:
“Two weeks ago we had a meeting organised by US Aids on the impact of HIV by 2020. I was very delighted to be approached by a parliamentarian who introduced herself and reminded me that we met at the last HIV and Aids Conference in Vienna and was happy to discuss with me. We also have contact at the National Council Against Aids (NACC), and the Department of Justice. All those people showed great willingness to work with us.”

Romanian, persecuted because brother is gay, refused asylum by US

Seal, United States Court of Appeals for the T...Image via Wikipedia
Source: Leagle

VALCU v. ATTORNEY GENERAL OF U.S.

SERBAN ANDREI VALCU, Petitioner,
v.
ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES, Respondent.

No. 09-2777.

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit.

Submitted Under Third Circuit LAR 34.1(a) September 17, 2010.

Filed: September 20, 2010.

Before: SLOVITER, BARRY and SMITH, Circuit Judges.

NOT PRECEDENTIAL OPINION

SLOVITER, Circuit Judge.

Serban Andrei Valcu ("Serban") has filed a petition for review of the order of the Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA") denying his application for asylum under the Immigration and Nationality Act ("INA"), 8 U.S.C. § 1158(b).
I.

Serban, who was approximately seventeen or eighteen years old, entered the United States in September 2004 after paying to be smuggled over the Mexican border along with his older brother, Bogdan Daniel Valcu ("Bogdan"), and his brother's partner, George Valentin Ionescu ("George"). All three were subsequently subject to removal proceedings. They conceded removability for entering the United States without having been admitted or paroled, and each applied for asylum and withholding of removal under the INA and the Convention Against Torture ("CAT"). A joint hearing was held and their applications were considered simultaneously by the Immigration Judge ("IJ").

Bogdan testified he had suffered past persecution, and feared future persecution, in Romania because he is gay. He described the "problems he had [in Romania as including] beatings, cursings, [inability] to find a steady job, and . . . problems at school." A.R. at 108. George, Bogdan's partner, testified that he suffered similar assaults and poor treatment. They stated that the police were unwilling to assist them, and in fact attacked both men on an occasion when they requested police help.

Two Malaysian gay men win UK asylum

Source: Free Malaysia Today

By Teoh El Sen

PETALING JAYA: Two Malaysian men successfully claimed refugee status in the UK on grounds that they are gays last month despite the low success rates of such claims based on sexual orientation.

The UK had granted the status to the duo -- Seow Shih Yung, 30, from Penang and Wong Yu Xiu, 25, from Petaling Jaya – based on their fear of persecution on grounds of their sexual orientation.

Under Section 377 of the Malaysian Penal Code, in an offence classified as "carnal intercourse against the order of nature", a convicted person may be punished with imprisonment of up to 20 years and also liable to fine or whipping.

"Both were in a homosexual relationship while in Malaysia, and moved to the UK because they feared that they were not able to practise homosexual relationship openly," said their lawyer Uma Devi Rajasundram.
Uma Devi said Seow and Wong went to the UK on a working holiday visa and the former had overstayed and became an illegal.

Monday, 27 September 2010

New report highlights "systemic failures" of immigration detention system

Source: IRR

By Frances Webber


An important new report from Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID), A nice judge on a good day: immigration bail and the right to liberty, reveals the systemic failures within the Home Office and the legal system which consign detainees to oblivion for months or years.

Liberty is regularly proclaimed as one of the most important of our fundamental human rights. But the right to liberty does not appear to be taken so seriously for those without British passports. This casual attitude towards the liberty of foreigners is manifested by the refusal by successive governments over the past forty years to legislate for a maximum period of immigration detention, and the failure to ensure other safeguards, such as automatic judicial oversight of detention and access to legal representation. There are few votes in reform of immigration detention, and the attitude seems to be that those whose right to be in the country is in question have no right to liberty.

In this situation, BID, a small charity set up twelve years ago, has worked to secure the release of those held in immigration detention - by providing representation on bail applications to particularly vulnerable detainees, by training large numbers of detainees so that they can make their own bail applications, and by campaigning, lobbying and reporting on the issues. The increased public awareness of immigration detention and in particular the high-profile campaign against the detention of children are in no small part due to BID's educational activities.

Video: Stonewall UK talk LGB asylum

Source: stonewalluk

Stonewall Policy Officer Nat Miles chats about their ground breaking research into the experiences of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in the asylum system.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Nicaragua: Sexual diversity in the national blogosphere

Rainbow FlagImage by qthomasbower via Flickr  
Source: globalvoicesonline

By Rodrigo Penalba · Translated by Silvia Viñas
 
The recent debate on legalizing same-sex marriage, as seen through traditional media (see poll in newspaper El Nuevo Diario [es]), has brought to light the opinion of those who oppose the measure, including politicians and even some pro-government and pro-sexual diversity movements [es]; however, the opinion of groups that are already organized around these issues is rarely taken into consideration.

Several Nicaraguan blogs are enriching the debate and the information on these issues. This is a selection of blogs that are currently participating in and pushing for sexual diversity:

Islam and homosexuality: the problem isn't religion but those who lead it

I am here I am queer Deal with it!Image by Thomas Marthinsen via Flickr  Source: Huffington Post

By Joseph Ward III

Of the 76 countries that persecute people for their sexual orientation, Iran will let an Islamic judge put them to death; Mauritania and Yemen will kill by public stoning; Saudi Arabia and parts of Nigeria and Somalia will do it based on their interpretation of Sharia law; Sudan will kill their citizens; and Iraq will sit passively as rogue militias hunt, torture and kill LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) persons.

If we have learned anything from all this brouhaha surrounding Park51, it's that there is a need to elevate the voices of moderate Muslim thinkers. These eight countries offer eight reasons that emphasize the importance of these efforts. In many societies with Muslim majorities, there is a violent attitude towards homosexuals that goes far beyond general condemnation into promoting coercive laws that imprison and kill.

When I spoke this August with Ali Hili, an exiled Muslim from Iraq now living in London, it was evident that he has seen and heard it all when it comes to persecution of homosexuals. Ali explained how the death of one of his friends who was doused in gasoline and burned alive prompted him to advocate for Iraq's gay community through an organization that he co-founded, called Iraqi LGBT.

For LGBT Asian-Americans, immigration is the most important issue

Source: International Examiner

By Kevin Minh Allen


With the passage of the Defense of Marriage Act of 1998, Washington state banned marriages between people of the same sex within its borders. The Act was upheld in 2006 by the Washington State Supreme Court after appeals were lodged and oral arguments were heard to overturn the law. But, the fight for equal marriage for same-sex couples is not only an issue for gay rights activists but also for Asian Pacific American activists because gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered persons, and anyone else who chooses to veer from the ‘straight’ and narrow path, are members of the Asian Pacific American community as well.

Helen Zia and George Takai are two prominent living icons in the Asian Pacific American community; both of them also identify as queer – Zia as a lesbian and Takai as gay. Ironically, if they chose to marry each other, every state in the union would wholeheartedly recognize their marriage as legal and confer upon them the rights and responsibilities of any other married couple. However, as it stands now, if they wished to marry someone of their own gender, they could only legally do so in either Massachusetts, Iowa or the District of Columbia.

So far, 44 states have instituted their own so-called “Defense of Marriage” acts in order to ban equal marriage for same-sex couples. One by one, these states have argued that marriage between opposite sexes is in a society’s best interest because of procreation and the raising of children. However, people like Crystal Jang, co-founder of Asian Pacific Islander Queer Women’s Transgender Community, would beg to differ with such a narrow interpretation of marriage. She has been married to her partner of 15 years in California and they are raising a teenage daughter together. Jang wants to impress upon the Asian Pacific American community that the struggle for equal marriage rights for queer couples is aligned with Asian American activism: “Unfortunately, many in the more conservative religious Asian communities view us as different, outsiders or not like them. Unless they have a personal connection with someone who is affected by Prop 8, I don’t think it’s important to them to really think about it. They don’t see the connection of discrimination to their own history…that inter-marriage was not possible in the not-too-distant past and that the challenges facing Asian LGBT people are not too different from what our ancestors faced before us.”

Saturday, 25 September 2010

In South Africa, thousands of black lesbians show their pride today

Source: IOL News

Thousands of black lesbians were due to take to the streets of Soweto today to celebrate their sexuality and humanity at the annual Soweto Pride Day.

Soweto Pride, which was initiated in 2004 by the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW), aims to promote tolerance of sexual diversity in the township.

The event will also commemorate and honour Soweto’s fallen victims and survivors of crimes motivated by prejudice – including migrants facing xenophobic violence and other minority groups that are stigmatised and discriminated against.

Soweto Pride is held every year on the Saturday closest to Heritage Day, and includes a lively protest march from the streets of Zone Two Meadowlands and through the residential and business areas of Soweto.

A political programme at the end-point is followed by a cultural programme to celebrate the struggles and victories of black lesbians, as the broader women’s movement and as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

UK: Five year 'leave to remain' policy creates severe stress and uncertainty

Five YearsImage by Michael | Ruiz via Flickr  
Source: Children & Young People Now

By Neil Puffett

The government is being called upon to rethink its approach to asylum after a report has exposed the problems faced by those individuals and families granted permission to stay in the country for just five years.

A report by the Refugee Council found that the policy of limited leave, which applies to children and adults, had a negative effect on those staying in the country including uncertainty over education and work arrangements.


The Labour government introduced the policy of limited leave in 2005. The first of those cases are now filtering through the immigration system, providing the basis for the report's findings.
"Refugees who have proved their need for protection are living with the fear of return hanging over their heads, and the time-limited nature of their status has created barriers to accessing employment and education," the charity's report states.
Limited leave applies to those who are granted refugee status but means they are subject to a review of that status at any time.

Prior to the 2005 change, refugees were given indefinite leave to remain once they received a positive decision in their asylum case.

The report calls for a review of limited leave, a return to the previous system and for steps to be taken in the meantime to clarify the process for refugees.

A Home Office spokesman was unable to say whether or not a review will take place.


The Refugee Council is asking refugees who are currently applying for indefinite leave to remain at the moment to contact them at media@refugeecouncil.org.uk.

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Iran: fleeing torture and possible execution, an interview with a gay asylum seeker in Turkey

GREEN CRYImage by FALTO via Flickr  Source: mehriran

By:mehriran.de

The Islamic Republic Iran doesn't like deviations from its state ideology. There are elitist regime circles who would like to impose certain rules concerning life style, sexuality, dress-code, behaviour or believes to the whole population of Iran.

Besides Bahai, Sunnis, Yogis or Sufis who face a brutal state campaign against their way of life and their believes, there are several other groups in Iran who are being harassed or excluded from social life by law.

Gays and lesbians will face death sentences according to article 110 of Iran's penal code. Many of these persons have left Iran to seek asylum in countries that are tolerant in this concern. One of them is Matin Yar, who is a refugee from Iran, waiting in Turkey to be granted asylum in a western country.

We would like to introduce our readers in his situation by asking him a few questions. The interview could be done with the help of Saghi Ghahraman, whom we also asked some questions concerning her work.
mehriran.de: "From which part of the country do you come from?"

Audio: Russia's fight for LGBT rights: Nikolai Alekseev interview

Friday, 24 September 2010

In Asia and the Pacific Islands, LGBT suffer massive injustices

Map showing countries within the Asia-Pacific ...Image via Wikipedia
Source: IGLHRC

By Grace Poore

Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people in Asia and the Pacific Islands experience extra-judicial killings, torture, violence and rape, as well as discrimination in employment, education, housing and health services.

These are the preliminary findings of the Advisory Council of Jurists (ACJ) of the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (APF) that met August 3-5, 2010 in Bali, Indonesia. This independent body of legal experts has found that at least 17 API governments1 have failed to provide protections for LGBT people because their national laws, policies and practices are inconsistent with international human rights law.

In response to these realities for LGBT people in the region, the APF has begun the process of addressing discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity as a legitimate human rights issue requiring the attention of its member institutions that are National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs).

UK: Psychotherapy for LGBT asylum seekers

mind portal -- rorschach test versionImage by onkel_wart via Flickr  By Dominic Davies

Pink Therapy, is the UK’s largest independent specialist therapy organisation to work with gender and sexual minority clients.  It runs an extensive training programme of workshops and courses for counsellors, psychotherapists and others in the helping professions who wish to understand more about and work more effectively with the gender and sexual minorities.

On Saturday 13 November 2010, Pink Therapy has invited Lucy Kralj the lead clinician at the Helen Bamber Foundation, one of the lead bodies for working with survivors of persecution and torture to present a training workshop on working LGBT asylum seekers and refugees.  The workshop will take place in Central London from 1pm - 7pm allowing day travel from most of the UK. Click here for full details.

Workshop fee is £120. There may be limited low cost bursaries for volunteer counsellors working within LGBT counselling agencies or with LGBT asylum seekers.

To our knowledge this is the first time the specific psychotherapeutic needs of LGBT asylum seekers and refugees have been addressed and the workshop is open to counsellors, psychologists and psychotherapists working in a range of theoretic models and we hope to encourage therapists from around the UK to attend the workshop.  There are some specific mental health needs and social contexts which leads us to feel therapists will benefit from some specific training in this area.

Pink Therapy was also recently asked by Jill Power of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group to help provide some therapeutic group work for LGBT asylum seekers and refugees and we have found a pool of therapists willing to get involved in such work and have worked with Outcome - Islington MIND’s LGBT mental health project who have agreed to manage such a project and provide a pilot project in therapeutic group work as well as  offer their daycare support project to LGBT asylum seekers with mental health support needs.

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Video: In Georgia, transsexuals and gays are "sick people"

The logo of Georgian orthodox ChurchImage via Wikipedia 
Source: RT

Sexual minorities in Georgia are accusing the government and the Orthodox church of persecuting them. They want their life choices to be accepted instead of being labeled a sin or disease.

Nika spent 5 years working in Georgia’s police force, and got fired … for being a woman. Nika is transgender and says he is not accepted for wanting to live in a man’s body. He claims gays, lesbians, and transsexuals are considered perverts by most Georgians.
“They say we should sit in our homes and not show up on the street. What, am I not a human being? Or, they say get the hell out of Georgia – is this not my country?” Nika claims.
The Georgian Orthodox church is one of the strongest opponents of gays and lesbians in the country.

The Metropolitan of Borjomi and Bakuriani, Father Serafim, commented, “Our position should be staunch, but we must also remember that they’re sick people. Society, the government and the people must do everything they can to help them heal.”

But Nika, who is himself an Orthodox Christian, disagrees.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

European Commission: asylum procedures "susceptible to administrative error"

European flag outside the CommissionImage via Wikipedia  
Source: Europa

The European Commission report on the application of the Directive on minimum standards on procedures for granting and withdrawing refugee status shows that procedural guarantees still vary considerably across the EU. Moreover, the vagueness of the standards set by the Directive and flaws in the implementation at national level may lead to administrative errors. The Commission adopted on 21 October 2009 a proposal to recast the Directive in order to remedy to these deficiencies.

"There are still significant divergences among national asylum procedures and present rules fall short in preventing administrative errors: I call on the European Parliament and the Council to adopt the amendments that the Commission proposed in 2009 to remedy this situation", said European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström. She added: "The Commission will continue to examine and pursue all cases where problems of implementation were identified, so as to ensure the correct application of the Directive, in particular with regard to the respect for the principle of non-refoulement and for the other rights laid down in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, as well as to reduce the scope for divergences."

The Asylum Procedures Directive was designed to establish minimum standards for fair and efficient procedures for granting and withdrawing refugee status.

In Senegal, police torture gays with impunity

Source: Amnesty International

Senegal's security forces continue to torture suspects held in custody, sometimes to death, leaving all those in detention at risk of serious human rights violations, Amnesty International said in a report released today.

The report Senegal: Land of Impunity documents how in the past three decades very little has improved within the Senegalese justice system. The systematic use of torture to extract confessions remains openly condoned in court proceedings and perpetrators are seldom held to account when their victims die as a result of mistreatment.

"For decades Senegalese men and women have been subjected to cruel and elaborate torture and ill-treatment at the hands of those who should be protecting them," said Salvatore Saguès, West Africa researcher at Amnesty International.

"Senegal's disregard for human rights can be judged by its failure to live up to its international human rights obligations. It does not even apply the guarantees set out in its own national legislation."

Amnesty International's report pulls together comprehensive research conducted between 1998 and May 2010 and contains testimonies from individuals - civilians victims of the past Casamance conflict, common law detainees or groups of people arrested because of their alleged political opinions or sexual behaviour - who describe being electrocuted, burned and asphyxiated while being held by security forces.

The report demonstrates that the Senegalese authorities have rarely investigated cases of deaths in custody, and where investigations have taken place, they have rarely been conducted in a prompt, independent and impartial manner.

UNHCR concerns with UK's 'fast track' asylum system

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ...Image via Wikipedia
HT: Freemovement

A new UNHCR report examining the UK's 'Detained Fast Track' system says it 'may be failing to protect asylum seekers' and expressed a number of concerns.
  • may be denying a fair and humane asylum procedure to some of the most vulnerable people, including victims of torture
  • assessment of the merits of each case remains poor because of the heavy burden of proof placed on applicants
  • poor analysis of whether an applicant's experiences constitute persecution according to the criteria of the 1951 Refugee Convention
  • a third of cases are eventually removed, this high proportion indicates that the DFT is not functioning in a way that ensures that difficult cases are screened out
  • insufficient use of country information to assess the credibility of a claim
  • detention is inherently undesirable and should be considered only as a last resort
Quality integration project key observations and recommendations

Video: 'Guilty of Being Gay'

Source: Australian Refugee Film Festival

NB: This film is not new - it was made in 2008 - but has only just been uploaded to the Internet by the Australian Refugee Film Festival. It features interviews with lawyers and activists. It also interviews a lesbian woman seeking asylum from Sierra Leone whose family pursued her through four African countries as well as Moses Kayiza from Uganda and an activist who supported him who explains the difficulties involved in Moses telling his story, which involved torture and sexual violence. Although much has changed because of the July 2010 Supreme Court decision, much has not. The film talks about the cruelty involved in being given five years 'leave to remain'.

(sound quality is a bit patchy)

UPR Kenya at the United Nations Human Rights Council Geneva

Flag of KenyaImage via Wikipedia 
15th Session of the Human Rights Council
Item 6: Universal Periodic Review – Statement by
Action Canada for Population and Development (ACPD)
Mr. President,
ACPD with Minority Women in Action, the Coalition of African Lesbians and Pan AfricaILGA, wishes to stress the following points in relation to the Universal Periodic Review of Kenya:
We welcome the State’s support on various recommendations including the promise to review national laws to fully uphold the principle of non-discrimination, eradicate the use of torture and ill-treatment by public officials and take effective measures to safeguard the work of human rights defenders. We also recall the State’s ratification of various international and regional human rights instruments including the protocol to the African Charter on Human andPeople’s Rights on the rights of women in Africa.
However, we express disappointment that the Kenyan government has rejected recommendations to take measures to provide for the protection and equal treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. The criminalization of consensual same-sex conduct encoded in Sections 162 and 165 of the Penal Code fuels stigma, discrimination and violence against sexual minorities. Human rights are universal, inalienable and inherent. These principles apply to all citizens of Kenya including lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex Kenyans.
The importance of human rights was emphasized by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in a high-level panel at the current session of the Human Rights Council who said:
“No doubt deeply rooted cultural sensitivities can be aroused when we talk about sexual orientation. Social attitudes run deep and take time to change. But cultural considerations should not stand in the way of basic human rights.”
LGBTI Kenyans are repeatedly discriminated against and continue to face threats and violence as well as torture, ill-treatment and harassment at the hands of public authorities simply because of who we are and who we love. We regret the silence of the State in the face of these violations, such as in the highly publicized attack on 12 February, 2010 in Mtwapa targeting homosexual individuals that saw organized physical violence, life threats and hate speech.
In this dawn of a new constitutional dispensation, we urge the State of Kenya to seize this moment and respect, protect and fulfill the rights of all Kenyans including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. Our rights, the rights of LGBTI people, are human rights.
Thank you.
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Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Video: UK asylum seeker women's hunger strike: Louder than words

By Black Women’s Rape Action Project

When 70 women went on hunger strike in Yarl’s Wood IRC on 5 February, an unprecedented level of media coverage followed. Rape survivors, mothers separated from their children, and other vulnerable women, some of whom had been detained without trial for months (one for over a year), spoke publicly to complain about the conditions they suffered, why they were driven to protest, and how they resisted official attempts to deny and subvert their action.

On 29 June, a packed meeting in the House of Commons hosted by John McDonnell MP, and chaired by Stella Mpaka, All African Women’s Group (AAWG) and Cristel Amiss, Black Women’s Rape Action Project (BWRAP) brought together: women central to the hunger strike, legal and medical professionals, family members of women still detained and a wide range of other organisations and individuals.

Ms Amiss opened by thanking Mr McDonnell for bringing the hunger strikers’ demands into the corridors of power by raising “questions in Parliament, presenting an Early Day Motion and putting Ministers on the spot.”

She traced the history of the hunger strike back to a January meeting in Parliament where women from detention spoke about the injustices they and others endured. Ms Amiss then gave a snapshot of the continuous daily support provided, including stopping removals, finding lawyers, arranging interviews and producing 14 updates – all with the aim of getting maximum publicity for maximum protection for the hunger strikers.
“When women inside stick their neck out, it changes what is needed from those of us outside. Our focus has to be to defend and support women who are vulnerable to reprisals.”

Rooftop protest at Serco run detention centre in Sydney, Australia

Source: ABC News

Villawood detention centre is run by Serco, who also manage manage Yarl's Wood and Colnbrook IRC's in the UK



Asylum seekers 'becoming more desperate'

Source: SBS News

The situation in overcrowded detention centres is a "powder keg", Australian of the Year and mental health expert Professor Patrick McGorry says, as reports emerge the men protesting on Villawood's rooftop are becoming increasingly agitated.


In the USA, binational couples may be left out of immigration reform

By Paul Canning

On 13 September The Washington Post published a long front-page news story 'Immigration overhaul could leave gay couples out'.

Reform of immigration in America is a key demand of the base of the Democratic party, particularly Latinos who voted overwhelmingly for President Obama - rowing back gains made by Republicans under President Bush. Obama has sited it as a legislative priority.

But it has become immensely controversial during 2010 due to the push by many Republican politicians for 'border control' and the expulsion of all illegal immigrants, who are thought to number many millions. In particular a law in Arizona dubbed the 'papers please' law because it forces police to stop people it suspects of being illegal immigrants has received massive media coverage, divided the country and provoked condemnation by a number of Latin American leaders as 'racist'.

Advocates for change which would benefit binational LGBT couples have decided to include provisions within overall  immigration reform. “No immigration reform measure will truly be deserving of the term ‘comprehensive’ unless it provides equality for gays and lesbians as well,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, chief sponsor of pro-gay reform in Congress, said in July.

However the coalition pushing for reform includes enemies of LGBT, such as the Catholic church and evangelical Christians.

Kevin Appleby of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which last year said the inclusion of gay couples in a House of Representatives bill aimed at reuniting families made it "impossible" for the group to support the measure, told the Post:
[Equal treatment for gay partners of U.S. citizens] introduces a new controversial element to the issue which will divide the faith community and further jeopardize chances for a fair and bipartisan compromise. Immigration is hard enough without adding same-sex marriage to the mix.
Similarly, the president of The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, told the Post that provisions for gay and lesbian families are the "death knell" for comprehensive reform.
The choice was between excluding gay and lesbian families from an overhaul of immigration laws - or losing out on an overhaul altogether.
The key constituency to changes getting passed are white evangelicals, he added. After years of outreach, Latino evangelicals have formed alliances with white evangelical groups - and those evangelicals are key to getting Republican votes in the House. Including provisions related to gay marriage, Rodriguez said, would prompt white evangelicals to desert the coalition.
Erwin de Leon, an Asian American researcher and LGBT advocate who was interviewed for the piece with his husband, pointed out on his blog that the Post's story ignores the many religious organisations who support pro-LGBT immigration reform.

As well, Timothy Kincaid points out on Box Turtle Bulletin that an under-publicised pro-LGBT legal decision to secure federal recognition for couples married in Massachusetts, which the administration has yet to appeal, may help couples stay in the United States rather than being forced to either seperate or move overseas.
Should the Administration opt not to appeal, then married same-sex couples in at least the State of Massachusetts would have the ability to apply for citizenship consideration in the same manner as opposite sex couples. It would be – for many – a great hardship to relocate to Massachusetts, but for some desperate couples it could be a temporary solution.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Interview with the “first gay face” of Jordan

Source: sex etc.

By Sara Racek, 16, Staff Writer

Twenty-one-year-old Khalid still remembers being 14 and attracted to his friend.

“There was this older guy in my school who was interested in me, friendship-wise. Being around him, I always felt safe and secure. I felt I couldn’t be touched or harassed. I remember waiting for my mom to pick me up after school, and he’d be there doing the same. We’d talk, and whenever my book would fall from my hand, he’d lean down and pick it up for me. That made me feel special.”

Khalid couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but there was something about this particular friend that made him feel special and silly and completely confused. Khalid spent hours pondering his feelings and what they meant. Was this a crush?

Khalid lives in Amman, Jordan, in the Middle East. At 14, he had never heard the word “gay” before.

“I remember reading the word ‘gay’ on a cover of a magazine, which led me to look for the meaning. After finding out what it really meant, I was in this phase of confusion,” Khalid explains. “I isolated myself from all the people around me and kept my distance from my friends and family. I created my own world—my own cocoon, where I felt free and more myself.”

Video: Being Latino, gay and immigrant in DC

The photo belongs to the Mpoderate
LGBT group of La Clinica del Pueblo
   
Source: Carlos in DC

By Carlos A. Quiroz.

Being Latino, gay and immigrant [Indigenous, queer and refugee]. We are part of the LGBT community in Washington, DC, but very often we are invisible in the media.

We are a minority within a minority. We face a cultural shock when moving to a new country with different values and traditions, but here we are safer being queer and living in the U.S.

Here we learn to find ourselves, to deal with other types of discrimination, especially being from another countries and having a different race, ways of living and accents. Sometimes we find ourselves fighting self destructive behaviors, mostly due to lack of family support or self acceptance. But at the end we all thrive for equality, respect, dignity and happiness.

This is a brief video that I recorded and is intended to show a part of our community. This includes opinions of three "Latino" gay men in Washington, DC (in Spanish), and  images from the Capital Pride Parade 2010.
Appearing in this video are, Jose Gutierrez of Latino GLBT History Project, Luis Suarez, the friends of Fuego DC, the guys of Somos DC, Candy Wrapper and friends, the Latin American Youth Center, and the Orion Program of the Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry, among many others.

UK suspends returns of asylum seekers to Greece

Source: NCADC

The UK Border Agency has announced today the suspension of the return of asylum seekers to Greece under the Dublin Regulation. With immediate effect, the backlog of approximately 1300 cases and all new cases will have their applications heard in the UK, and not Greece.

This will come as a great relief to all those facing return to the “broken asylum system” of Greece. The decision-making process in the UK leaves a lot to be desired but at least we have legal aid (for now, and only just) and the initial success rate is more than Greece’s 1%.

The decision comes as a result of the Court of Appeal’s decision to refer the case of NS (formerly known as Saeedi) to the Court of Justice of the European Union. It appears that this process could take up to two years, so the UK Government has decided to use it’s powers to assess asylum claims in the UK during this period, rather than have the applicants wait for the outcome.

The decision comes as a result of the Court of Appeal’s decision to refer the case of NS (formerly known as Saeedi) to the Court of Justice of the European Union. It appears that this process could take up to two years, so the UK Government has decided to use it’s powers to assess asylum claims in the UK during this period, rather than have the applicants wait for the outcome.

The UK Border Agency has stressed that this decision is purely pragmatic, and is in no way related to the multiple human rights abuses and the near impossibility of claiming asylum in Greece, as highlighted time and again by the United Nations refugee agency, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International etc.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Video: Reporter visits migrant mass grave in Greece

Source: AlJazeeraEnglish

The Greek government says it is planning new laws to cope with the enormous influx of illegal immigrants heading to the country.

Almost 60,000 people were caught trying to enter Greece in the first six months of this year alone.

Barnaby Phillips reports from Athens.
 

First call for action after abduction of Russian LGBT leader

Alekseev with papier-mache dummy resembling Luzhkov
By Paul Canning

Update: 21 September

Facebook statement 9.30pm (Moscow): All lesbian and gay activists arrested at today's demo in front of the Moscow City Hall have been released.

GayRussia. ru statement: activists were tailed during the day by police. Split into two groups, one chains themselves to railings. Alekseev's group has doll of Mayor Luzhkov. The head is symbolically broken off.
In general, the activists of project GayRussia. Ru evaluate the action near the City Hall as a very lucky because they managed to draw attention to the arbitrariness of Mayor Luzhkov and absurdity of his system the suppression of civil rights. Everybody saw that the doll Luzhkov finally lost his head.
Eleven arrested. pinknews.co.uk spoke with Nikolai in Tverskoy police station whilst waiting for police to finish the "protocols" of the arrests.
He said: "We handcuffed ourselves to the fence and the police took us out by force.
They broke the handcuffs, my hand is all [covered] in blood."
He estimated that between 40 and 50 participants joined the protest but said he did not know if others were being held at other police stations.
AP reports that:
The activists handcuffed themselves to a monument for the 13th-century Russian prince who founded Moscow, displayed a papier-mache dummy resembling Luzhkov and unfurled posters ridiculing the mayor and his billionaire wife, Yelena Baturina.
Beheaded Mayor Luzhkov
in Moscow police statio
From inside a police van he told AP: "I had no hope it would end peacefully. This lawlessness will go on as long as this lowlife rules the city."

He also spoke with UK Gay News from inside the police van saying:
“Today it was like a VIP service at the police station,” Mr. Alekseev said on his release. “The police did everything to write the protocols and get rid of us as fast as possible.  We have been charged for taking part into an unsanctioned event only and not for disobeying police orders.  As a result, the maximum sentence is a fine. My case is scheduled for Oct 6.
“I have never seen any such service from this police station in the last five years that I have been regularly taken there when conducting our actions,” he said.
And in a twist to the story, he said: “Luzhkov will be taken to court, well, at least his image. The police confiscated the doll of the Mayor that I was carrying at the protest and they will bring it as a proof to Court.”
Protest video. Facebook commentator Alex Moskovkin translating from the Russian: "He calls the Moscow mayor a bitter homo demanding his resignation, says that the government is corrupt, homophobic, and unlawfully detains peaceful demonstrators. The phrase on the poster roughly translated means "Luzhkov and his wife are a hand and glove""



Nikolai: "Poster says "Luzhkov is gomik and pederast"."

~~~~~~~~~

Russian LGBT leader Nikolai Alekseev has called for international protests against Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov.

In a Facebook posting he announces that an unauthorised protest tomorrow, 21 September, at 6pm in front of Moscow City Hall calling for Luzhkov to be removed and prosecuted will be going ahead. The protest will now also "demand an investigation and punish those responsible" for the kidnapping of Alekseev.

Alexseev also points out that as Luzhkov is in Austria "with his billioneer wife ... It [protests] can especially be effective in Austria!!!"

Luzhkov has refused to allow any Moscow Pride public events or demonstrations by LGBT. Moscow Pride is the subject of a case before the European Court of Human Rights.

The Mayor is currently engaged in an internal Russian political battle for survival and is being investigated for money laundering. State television has run a number of stories accusing him of corruption. The Austrian newspaper Der Standard suggested on Friday that the kidnapping of Alekseev "had been staged by the security forces to support Luzhkov or to discredit the views of other analysts". Russian President Medvedev is believed to want Luzhkov removed but he is supported by Prime Minister Putin.

Alekseev was abducted last week and told RFE "I don't think federal structures would have resorted to such means if they had wanted something from me. I think this is largely linked to Moscow authorities and the actions we have taken against them at the European Court." However in an interview today with Russian Newsweek he said "I do not care who was behind it all" but linked his abduction to "these obscure political games around the future of Luzhkov... it may be people who want to spoil things for Luzhkov - or vice versa."
The magazine also asked him whether it could be linked to a report due on Thursday on Russian TV station NTV which will discuss the presence of powerful but closeted gay men in Russia, both politicians and pop stars. On GayRussia.ru activist Nicola Baev says that no Russian pop stars have been prepared to support the LGBT community.

In a statement published on the GayRussia.ru website - which mysteriously went down during Alekseev's abduction - organizers have said the ban on their demonstration goes against Article 31 of the Russian constitution, which guarantees freedom of assembly. They say authorities said the protest was banned because of "the inability to ensure the safety of the protesters because of "the narrow pavements and heavy pedestrian traffic" and "conclusions of the Committee on Cultural Heritage in Moscow the impossibility of holding public events on Tverskaya Square (which is a monument to Yuri Dolgoruky ").

They also link the protest to Alekseev's abduction and [Google translation] "the requirement of respecting human rights, we call not only for the resignation of the mayor, but also to immediately investigate all crimes Luzhkov: from economic to crimes against fundamental human rights, and establishment of Luzhkov there, where it should be - in prison! From now on, our slogan: Luzhkov should go to jail!"

Luzhkov has called Moscow Pride "satanic" and said "we think that destructive sects and propaganda of same-sex love are inadmissible."

In January he said: "It is high time to crack down on the parade with all the power and justice of the law, instead of talking about human rights. (...) We need a social whip or something like that."

Russian Newsweek today published a list of '12 things Muscovites will lose when Luzhkov goes'. Third was a 'persecution of gay parades'.

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