Friday, 8 April 2011

In UK, trade unions to lobby for LGBT asylum seekers

Pete Wilcox proposes the motion
By Paul Canning

The Northern Trades Union Congress has passed a motion on the 'Continued deportation of Asylum Seekers on grounds of Sexual Orientation' at its annual gathering 2 April.

The resolution was proposed by Pete Wilcox, a Fire Brigades Union Regional Secretary, and seconded by Unison, and there were speakers in support from the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) and Spennymoor (Durham) Trades Council.

It says that although the government made a commitment in its programme for government: "It is clear from recent reports of on-going deportation cases that the Home Office, through the auspices of the UK Border Agency, remain committed to the continued deportation of LGBT asylum seekers back to their home countries."

Citing Ugandan cases in particular, it said "our Government remains determined to send LGBT asylum seekers back to Uganda."

The resolution called on unions to support the Northern TUC LGBT Network in lobbying North East MP’s and the government to "end the deportation of LGBT asylum seekers back to countries that clearly discriminate against LGBT people with imprisonment, torture and death due to sexual orientation or gender identification."

Pete Wilcox's speech:

Friends, colleagues, comrades, in the aftermath of the 2010 General Election it became apparent to the trade union movement that the challenges ahead of us were going to be mountainous, across all aspects of the work we undertake on behalf of our members, those that are less fortunate in our communities and the users of the services that are being cut.

It comes as no great surprise when we witness the release of glitzy campaign strategies and documents from the Tory led Coalition Government, followed by their raft of broken promises.

In June last year the Government released a ‘Programme for Government’ within which it pledged to tear down the barriers to equal opportunities, talking about creating a fairer society, we will hear about that myth being dismantled in many of our motions here this weekend.

Part of this ‘Programme’ focused on LGBT issues and of particular interest here today is the Asylum issue.

Despite a promise within the ‘Programme’ that Government will stop the deportation of asylum seekers who have to leave their countries of origin because their sexual orientation or gender identification, because to repatriate in such a way places them at grave risk of persecution, imprisonment, torture or execution, yet we still witness continued deportations of these individuals.

We hear judges and Government ministers stating that it is down to the applicant to demonstrate they are at risk, that should be an easy process if you accept someone’s sexuality, but how do I prove I am gay to a Judge or Government minister, I will let you answer that for yourselves.

According to Human Rights Watch there are 38 out of 53 African nations that still instigate state sanctioned persecution of homosexuals, over 70 countries worldwide, whilst the developed world turns a blind eye. We in the UK can not continue to assist in such persecutions through the deportation of vulnerable individuals back to their home country, stating that you have to be discrete!!

If we as a country continue with the deportation of LGBT people back to unsafe countries with regards to sexual orientation and gender identity then we are complicit and no amount of glossy publications or programmes will change that fact. Words are fine but do not help the people facing imprisonment, torture, corrective rape or even death.

We use Uganda as an example within the motion, many of you may have seen the recent BBC documentary titled ‘The most dangerous place in the world to be Gay’, looking at the plight of LGBT people on Uganda, but we know this is not the only country concerned. In Uganda we have Government Ministers pushing through a bill that will impose lifetime imprisonment or even the death penalty for homosexuality, stating that “Here in Uganda homosexuality is not a human right, it is a behaviour that is learned and can be unlearned”. A newspaper printed names and photos of individuals it identified as being gay under a headline ‘Hang them’. That is not a country that in your wildest dreams could be considered safe, especially given the recent brutal killing of a leading gay activist in the country after his name and picture was released.

We therefore call on affiliate unions together with the NTUC LGBT Network to lobby NE MP’s and the UK Government to ensure accountability to the promises made in the ‘Programme for Government’ and end the deportation of LGBT Asylum Seekers back to countries that clearly discriminate against LGBT people with imprisonment, torture and death due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
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