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Showing posts with label gordon brown. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gordon brown. Show all posts

Monday, 10 January 2011

Uganda opposition leader 'against prosecuting gays'

Kizza Besigye
By Paul Canning

In a first, one of Uganda's top opposition politicians has publicly opposed the 'kill the gays' bill and suggested he would decriminalise homosexuality if elected, according to an AFP report.

"This is something that is done in the privacy of people's rooms, between consenting adults," said Kizza Besigye, who is challenging President Yoweri Museveni for the third time in February 18 Presidential elections as leader of a four-party opposition grouping.

Besigye is a former colonel in the Ugandan army, former Interior Minister and chairman of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party.

In 2001 Besigye was brutally arrested and detained, allegedly in connection with the offense of treason. He fled to the United States, returning in 2005 only to be arrested and then released again.

In the 2006 Presidential election Museveni was elected for another five-year tenure, winning 59% of the vote against Besigye's 37%. The Supreme Court of Uganda later ruled that the election was marred by intimidation, violence, voter disenfranchisement, and other irregularities.

There are fears that this will be repeated in 2011. According to Timothy Kalyegira, writing for Ugandan newspaper The Daily Monitor: "Museveni has made it clear that he cannot hand over power to the opposition." A leaked cable by the new U.S ambassador to Uganda, Jerry Lanier published by Wikileaks painted a bleak picture of the future.

Besigye, who noted he was speaking individually and not on behalf of the opposition, said that homosexuality has "generated far too much excitement" among current government leaders.

Resources the police devote to investigating homosexuality "could be better spent elsewhere," he added, during the recording of a town-hall style dialogue to be aired later on Ugandan television.

He argued his personal moral views about sexuality were not relevant.

"We are talking about the law," he said, explaining the current provisions banning homosexuality are superfluous because no one has been prosecuted (which is actually incorrect).

Speaking last year, Besigye said, that the issue of homosexuality was being used to divert attention away from “the real urgent issues – human rights abuses, rampant corruption”.
“The enthusiasm with which the anti- homosexuality bill has been introduced I find suspicious and dubious and ominous, he said”
President Museveni last year urged those politicians in his party pushing the 'kill the gays' bill to "go slow." He also called it a "foreign policy issue" following widespread international outrage including comments made directly to him by the former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and a 45' minute phone conversation with Hillary Clinton.

However according to commentator Warren Throckmorton, who has been closely following developments:
Museveni told his party members that the supporters of the bill needed to work with the Europeans and Americans on the issue (PDF); he did not say to shelve it – at least in public. Some sources have told me on the condition of anonymity that Museveni has assured the US that the bill will be vetoed. However, he has not to my knowledge said that publicly. Mr. Tashobya told me that the President has not indicated any position on the situation to him. Tashobya also told me he has no reason to think that the President will not allow the bill to become law, with possible amendments.
Musceveni said:
“This is a foreign policy issue and we have to discuss it in a manner that does not compromise our principles but also takes care of our foreign policy interest,” as the MPs shouted: “No, no, no!”
But David Bahati, the bill's author, has recently said he would do "whatever it takes" to see the bill passed. It is expected to come to a vote as early as February.
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Friday, 2 July 2010

London free newspaper targeted by anti-racist spoof

Source: NCADC-North

Not the MetroLondon commuters were this morning surprised to find that their usual Metro paper was a bit thinner, yet more interesting and engaging, than usual, says a press release from a group calling itself Press Action:

Tens of thousands of copies of a spoof newspaper that looked very similar to the free daily were distributed at 20 busy tube stations around the capital during rush hour. Thousands more were distributed in other cities around the country.

Under the headline “Gordon Brown to be deported to Scotland.” the front frontpage story claimed the former prime minister was facing imminent removal back to his “home country,” as the new coalition government introduced new immigration rules that imposed further restrictions on “non-English nationals.” Alongside the story, a manipulated picture showed Gordon Brown being arrested by two policemen at beer festival in Cambridge.

Wearing a white T-shirt bearing the Metro logo and a blue baseball cap, one of the 50 or so distributors, who preferred to keep anonymous, said: “By replacing the word ‘British’ with ‘English’ when talking about ‘British jobs’ and the ‘floods of illegal immigrants into Britain,’ we hope people will realise how racist and absurd this rhetoric of immigration controls is.”

In a witty attempt to highlight the racist and sexual violence experienced by immigration detainees at the hands of private ‘detainee escorts’, a fake advert claimed that G4S, the private security giant that runs a number of immigration detention centres in the UK and provides detainee escort services on behalf of the UK Border Agency, was looking for “strong men” to “escort women abroad.”

The rest of the spoof paper featured a 60-Second interview with a real-life ex-detainee, a ‘myth-buster’ about asylum and immigration, an ‘immigration newspeak’ glossary, racist quotes from mainstream press and a couple of more in-depth articles on immigration controls and protests against them.

Many of those who picked up the paper initially seemed confused as to why the Metro had “shrunk.” Realising it was a spoof, however, many commented that it was “very funny”, “clever”, “naughty” and “brilliant”. Some even returned back and asked for more copies. Others, however, threw it away and wanted the thicker “real thing.”

The Metro website has also been spoofed, with a layout similar to that of the paper’s official website but with the spoof paper’s content.

The ‘spoofing operation’ was part of ‘two days of action against racist press’, called by a coalition of anti-racist and migrant rights groups under the name Press Action.

A spokesperson for the anonymous group of spoofers said, “We are sick of being lied to; we are sick of being lied about. These lies, repeated everyday by free papers, tabloids and other corporate mainstream media outlets, have almost become a reality, where the most vulnerable victims of this screwed-up political-economic system are blamed for it.”

Explaining why the group chose the Metro and not a ‘more obvious target’ when it comes to racist press, such as the Daily Mail or the Evening Standard, the anonymous spokesperson commented: “We wanted to highlight the fact that racism and anti-immigration bias is sometimes more subtle than the Daily Hate rants. Besides, the Metro seemed to provide a better vehicle due to its exploitation of the ‘public’ transport system, so we thought we’d reclaim that right for a day.”

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Saturday, 8 May 2010

After the UK election: where next for LGBT asylum?


By Paul Canning

As the jostling starts on exactly who will form a British government we have no idea who will be the MP(s) ending up with the key Ministries holding the fate of asylum seekers in their hands.

If we have a coalition government with mostly Conservative Ministers we could end up with a gay Home Secretary. There were many rumours after Tory Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling made his ill-fated and off-camera (but not off-microphone) comments on gays and Bed'n'Breakfast hotels that Nick Herbert might replace him. It wasn't Grayling's first 'gaffe'.

The precedent of Labour's silent gay and lesbian MPs would suggest that just because they're LGB they cannot be relied on to stick up for LGBT asylum seekers, but the Conservatives went into Thursday's election making a late pitch via an 'equalities manifesto' that promised to "change the rules" on LGBT asylum.

Labour didn't, and manifesto commitments are serious business. During the campaign my articles on Labour's record drew strong attacks, including from the gay MEP Michael Cashman, that suggested that - somehow - Labour would be better than the mistrusted Tories on LGBT asylum. But despite their lesbian and gay group passing a resolution promising to work on the issue nothing made it onto the actual promises list beyond vague claims, and the record speaks for itself. The UKLGIG study released in the middle of the election proved once-and-for-all that the system they'd managed is riddled with homophobia, how they might tackle it was a complete mystery.

And Labour ended the campaign with Gordon Brown making sickening comments on the pogrom in Iraq, suggesting that Iraqi gays are better off because of his government's actions and refusing to answer on how come it thought Iraq a 'safe country' to return gay asylum seekers to.

Of course the Iraq war supporting David Cameron would have had to say something similar, though possibly differently on the asylum aspect. But the Tory promise to 'change rules', plus what issue it highlighted which Labour consistently either refused to address ('go home and be discrete') or denied was a policy, plus Cameron's answer to my question which was a non-pat answer showing someone in Conservative Central Office was paying attention and reading about the issues can not but give hope - especially when the 'on side' LiberalDemocrats look to be playing a government role.

Another aspect to their credit is that when Cameron made a brief comment suggesting that they shouldn't be returned and told to 'be discrete' the right-wing mass tabloid newspaper the Daily Mail managed to translate this into "Cameron: Gay refugees from Africa should be given asylum in UK". This racist spin (he never mentioned Africa) lit up the far right blogosphere but the Mail's reaction - showing they were paying attention - didn't scare the Tories into not putting a pledge in a manifesto.

A number of LiberalDemocrat MPs who now may have some real power have long 'walked the walk' on LGBT asylum. Especially Simon Hughes who has showed up and backed Peter Tatchell and Outrage's many years of lonely campaigning. During the campaign Lynne Featherstone showed real understanding, saying: "we need to go further, and use our significant influence abroad to end this persecution because for every person that manages to flee - there [are] undoubtedly many more living in fear unable to escape."

But so have a number of Tories. During the campaign for gay Iranian Mehdi Kazemi several years ago the strongest supportive and condemnatory comments came from London's Conservative MEP John Bowis. In Parliament the Tory MP Alistair Burt who has the notorious Yarl's Wood detention centre in his constituency has been relentless is asking probing questions and damning the regime there.

The election also saw a number of new MPs who can be expected to be supportive.

Belfast Mayor and new Alliance party MP Naomi Long, who dramatically beat arch-homophobe and Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson, is a long standing advocate for refugees, migrants and asylum seekers.

The Greens first MP, Caroline Lucas, has worked for LGBT asylum seekers throughout her term as an MEP and her party has strong policy.

Asylum advocates worked to ensure that candidates were educated and asked to commit on the issues. Over 1000, from all parties, signed a pledge to "remember the importance of refugee protection." Many of those were elected yesterday.

UK LGBT advocates have been discussing how to proceed, how to secure change. Exactly how we'll do it cannot be announced yet - watch this space! - but the election seems to have thrown up the greatest hope for real, meaningful change to our appalling regime we've seen in - oh - thirteen years.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Gordon Brown answers question on LGBT Iraq and asylum

gordon brown sauceImage by Rakka via Flickr
The day before the UK election Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown has answered questions from readers of pinknews.co.uk. He gave the following answer to a question on LGBT life in Iraq and asylum.
Simon Reader: Life in Iraq is now much worse for gay people than it was under Saddam Hussein. As architects of the political situation in Iraq do you consider your government morally obliged to extend asylum more actively and with less bureaucracy to gay Iraqis who are in danger as a direct consequence of UK intervention in their country?

Gordon Brown: I unreservedly condemn abuses of gay rights, wherever in the world they happen, including in Iraq. But I'm sorry I can't agree that this is a result of military intervention.

Saddam's was a brutal regime which mistreated a wide range of minorities inside Iraq including LGBT people. Whatever people's views about the military intervention – and I have made clear that I think the international community had no choice given Saddam's repeated flouting of international resolutions as well as his abuses of his own people – I hope they will acknowledge that in almost all respects Iraq is a better place, and the Middle East a better and safer place, with him no longer in power.

Iraq is now an emerging democracy – definitely still with many flaws, but a strengthening democracy with the recent elections. We must continue to press the Iraqi government to improve their record on tolerance and human rights as we do with other countries in the region and the world.

I believe that human rights are universal, and that it is the job of mature democracies like Britain to support the development of free societies everywhere. I think Iraq now has a better chance of becoming a free society that genuinely respects human rights than it did under Saddam. As to your question on whether there is something we could do for gay asylum seekers from Iraq as a group, it is a fundamental principle of our asylum system that each cases is assessed fairly, separately, and on its merits.
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Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Green Party manifesto includes LGBT asylum commitments

Caroline LucasImage via Wikipedia
The UK Green Party election manifesto, launched April 16 in Brighton, one of Britain's 'gayest' cities, includes the following commitment:
"Ensure safe haven and refugee status for LGBT people fleeing persecution in violently homophobic and transphobic countries."
This follows on from its inclusion in the party's LGBT manifesto, launched in February.

Green Party leader Caroline Lucas told the launch:
“We are delighted that our general election manifesto includes strong commitments to further extend the rights and freedoms of LGBT people.”
She told LGF News:
"The treatment gay and lesbian asylum seekers receive from the British immigration system is nowhere near acceptable and we have worked very hard to support several asylum seekers who were under threat of deportation while under unimaginably enormous mental stress."

"Our co-spokesperson, who is a lesbian, is working with someone on their claim right now - this person has been turned down by the adjudicator, but I can't go into too much detail as her appeal is pending.  If she is refused leave to remain we will be fighting her case."

"Jean Lambert, the Greens's other MEP, was instrumental in getting a decision to deport a gay man to likely execution in Iran reversed by shaming the Labour government into reviewing his case."
Green Party LGBT National Spokesperson Phelim Mac Cafferty said:
"Gordon Brown’s government’s refusal to offer asylum to LGBT refugees who have suffered beatings' imprisonment' and torture on the grounds that they will not be at risk of homophobic persecution if they simply hide their sexuality and stop having gay relationships' shows that while making some progressive decisions for gay people in this country' Labour are not beyond criticism. In fact' Labour practices double standards by not making similar demands on political or religious refugees."

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Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Never mind Latvian gay rights and the EU, what about Iraq's pogrom of gays?

Source: Left Foot Forward

By Paul Canning

Stonewall and Ben Bradshaw's talking points got another outing last week and scored what must have pleased both them and Gay Times no end, a 'gotcha' moment for Cameron on gay issues.

What is frustrating as political leaders do these rare interviews on gay issues is that there's one area where their glaring failure rarely gets questioned: LGBT asylum and - allied to that - support for LGBT in those parts of the world where they are most at threat.

The UK has a terrible record with case-after-case of people fleeing torture, arrest, 'honour' killing and the like needing campaigning and years of expensive legal effort to force the Home Office to grant them sanctuary.

Harriet Harman was booed at the London Pride rally two years ago following the well-publicised case of Mehdi Kazemi. The teenage Iranian had seen his boyfriend murdered by the Mullas but it took a massive campaign before Jacqui Smith relented. Home Office Minister Lord West actually said that "we do not consider that there is systematic persecution of gay men in Iran."

Campaigners have sought Home Office changes for years to little effect.

Only last month the High Court blocked the government from deporting a Ugandan lesbian who was on a police list.

Now we have the leader of Iraqi LGBT, an incredibly brave man who has saved countless lives from the pogroms in Iraq, being denied asylum and hence travel rights - so he can take up American and European offers to talk with politicians and visit TV studios.

Yet only Johann Hari's recent interviews of Brown, Cameron and Clegg for the Independent has mentioned asylum. This produced the irony of Cameron sounding more liberal than Brown as Hari asked the same question about the policy of telling people to 'go home and be discrete'. It also produced a bizarre Daily Mail headline 'Cameron: Gay refugees from Africa should be given asylum in UK' - when Africa hadn't been mentioned.

But Hari did the same thing as other gay journalists and zoomed in on the Conservative's relationship to eastern European homophobes.

Those journalists' priorities match those of gay and lesbian Labour MPs and Labour LGBT. This when we have executions in Iran, a 'kill the gays' bill in Uganda and looming repression in the rest of Africa plus that ongoing pogrom in Iraq. None of those MPs has raised a finger to help (yes Brown did complain to Museveni but one isolated swallow doesn't make a summer).

The Foreign Office proudly trumpets its gay rights work but its almost entirely European. It's second Human Rights report has some information about Iraq - sourced from the same person Labour's Home Office says does not have a "compelling" case. Only Labour's Michael Cashman MEP has a record to be proud of on international LGBT issues.

By contrast look at what's happening in the US State Department through Hillary Clinton's leadership on truly international gay rights work.

As the booing of Harman showed LGBT voters are aware of Labour's big failing on LGBT asylum. And no ammount of spin helped by gay journalists and pointing at the Tories can cover up the big homophobic stink emanating from the Home Office.

Mehdi Kazemi: a reminder

Friday, 26 March 2010

Comment: Iraq is the most dangerous place on earth for gays


Source: pinknews.co.uk

By Paul Canning

It often shocks people to hear this but talk to Iraqi gays who've made it out and they'll tell you – life was better under Saddam.

Baghdad played the role that Beirut does now as a sanctuary for Middle Eastern gay life with clubs which men from the Gulf and Saudi Arabia flocked to.

In sharp contrast, for the past six years Iraq has been the worst place in the entire world to be gay. Far, far worse than Uganda or even Iran. Hundreds of gays, lesbians and trans people have been hunted down and killed in the most vile ways imaginable – and imagination is the right word. Doctors have confirmed reports of men have had their anuses glued shut by militia forces and others have accused the government of being involved.

No one has been prosecuted and the Iraqi government has failed to do anything to stop it. So Iraqi gays have helped themselves. They have created safe houses, although many have been discovered and become a new killing field.

Many have fled but they have faced a cold wall of indifference and they have needed friends and luck to actually make it to sanctuary.

Our government, the British government, has turned its back on those who have arrived here. All have initially been refused asylum. The system instead has told them that Iraq is safe and they should go home.

I am not making this up. Faceless bureaucrats in Alan Johnson's department (and Jacqui Smith's and John Reid's before him) have had the front to write "Iraq is safe" on gay asylum letters.

Why? How? Because they can. Because no one, no gay MP, no LGBT group, no one has pressured them, forced them, to do otherwise.

It gets worse. Because of an "unfit for purpose" system, their claims take years to resolve, wasting untold amounts of taxpayers' money as other bureaucrats and Johnson's hired gun lawyers fight them to the bitter end despite the mountain of evidence that Iraq is a deathzone for gays.

In the meantime they survive on handouts as they're not allowed to work. They are stressed out in ways those of us lucky enough to be born in the 'west' cannot begin to imagine, fearing that Johnson's agents will pick them up and put them on a plane to Baghdad.

Of course there are people helping Iraqi gays who make it here, though they are few. Most of all Iraqi gays are helping themselves.

Chief amongst them is Ali Hili, the leader of organised group Iraqi LGBT. It is he who first brought the world's attention to the pogrom against gays in Iraq. He has had the balls to be the public face and has paid the price in death threats and a fatwa against him.

But he is stuck in what John Reid described as an "unfit" system. This incredibly brave gay leader is just another number and the failure to grant him asylum is affecting the ability of Iraqi gays to draw the world's attention to their plight.

He cannot go visit the US Congress. He cannot visit the European parliament. In both places there are Very Important People, those who can practically help, who want to hear firsthand of the situation.

He has already told the Foreign Office. This other branch of the same government, whose gay minister Chris Bryant proudly touts its work on supporting gays around the world. The Foreign Office is extremely keen to take Ali's evidence, write it up in their Human Rights Report and use that to sell the caring-and-sharing face of the UK government, especially to gay voters.

So when you read the letter from some minion in the UK Border Agency saying that his case is not "compelling", that his case cannot be expedited so he can go visit Washington and New York and Brussels, what do you think? Does it make you angry?

Yes? Do something. Ask your MP – you can find them on this website theyworkforyou.com/ – to ask the Home Secretary Alan Johnson to intervene.

Johnson can do it. Remember Mehdi Kazemi? The young gay Iranian who Jacqui Smith insisted could be safely sent back despite all the evidence including the execution of Mehdi's teenage boyfriend? Well, she intervened and Mehdi is now safe. But it took an enormous effort to make that happen so – please – don't just read this and be angry. Write your MP, write Johnson and the Prime Minister. Tell everyone you know what's going on and ask them to do something as well.

The Ali campaign can be found here http://bit.ly/alihili

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Action alert: Iraqi LGBT need your help

The UK government through its Border Agency has decided not to give priority to the asylum application of Iraqi LGBT leader Ali Hili, in exile in London. The application has been outstanding for nearly three years and while it is outstanding, Ali cannot travel.

This decision directly impacts not just on Ali but on harshly persecuted Iraqi lesbians and gays through the reduced ability of their sole visible leader to raise their profile internationally.

Can you help?

As you may be aware, numerous human rights organisations and journalists have documented the pogrom against lesbians and gays in Iraq. Iraqi LGBT estimates that over 700 LGBT have been assassinated over the past few years. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has advised 'favourable consideration' for asylum claims because of the situation.

As the public leader of the only group representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people both inside Iraq and in the diaspora, Hili has received a fatwa from inside Iraq as well as numerous threats in London which have forced him to move. He is under the protection of the Metropolitan Police.

US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin spoke last month of their concerns for LGBT both in Iraq and as refugees, in a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton co-signed by 64 other Congresspeople.

Hili has received many requests to speak about the situation in Iraq internationally, including from US-based groups such as the Gay Liberation Network and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Campaign, which he has been unable to pursue.

His solicitor, Barry O'Leary, wrote to the UK Border Agency (UKBA) in August 2009 that: "he desperately wishes to do this [travel] in order to further the aims of his organisation, that is, supporting lesbians and gay men in Iraq and bringing the world's attention to their plight."

Six months later, the UKBA told O'Leary that:
  • the assistance given by Hilli to the Foreign Office "does not count"
  • the fatwa does not mean that Hilli "falls within the classification of clear and immediate vulnerability"
  • that the delay in deciding Hilli's asylum case (since July 2007) "is not in itself an exceptional circumstance"
  • his case is not "compelling"
Peter Tatchell says of Ali:
"It was Ali Hili of Iraqi LGBT who first alerted the world to the organised killing of LGBT people in Iraq - way back in 2005. For a long time, he was a lone voice."

"Mr Hili was also the person who set up the 'underground railroad' and safe houses inside Iraq, to give refuge to LGBT people on the run from Islamist death squads and to provide escape routes to neighbouring countries - which saved the lives of many Iraqi LGBTs.

Ali must travel!

The UK Foreign Office Human Rights Report for 2009 specifically names Iraqi LGBT over other NGOs as a key source of information. Hili has met with them numerous times. The report quotes Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell condemning persecution of LGBT in Iraq.

Foreign Office Minister Chris Bryant wrote in his blog on Feb. 24: "I know some people dismiss LGBT rights as something of a sideshow in international relations, but I am proud to say that the FCO has argued for a decade that human rights are a seamless garment."

Yet the same government through the Home Office is effectively aiding that persecution through the failure of government recognition to Iraqi LGBT's leader.
We want the UK government to expedite Ali Hili's asylum claim so he is properly able to tell the world about what is happening to LGBT in Iraq.

How you can help


GoPetition

Write to the UK Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, to ask that he intervene in Ali's case that his asylum application be prioritised. Please mention Ali's Home Office reference which is S1180507/7. (Get a standard letter - please personalise and remember to sign it)
Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP, Home Secretary, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF
Telephone: 020 7035 4848
public.enquiries@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk
Write to UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, to ask that they ask Johnson to intervene in Ali's case. Please mention Ali's Home Office reference which is S1180507/7. (Get a standard letter - please personalise and remember to sign it)
The Prime Minister, 10 Downing Street, London, SW1A 2AA
Email the Prime Minister’s Office
Write to your MP to ask that they ask Johnson to intervene in Ali's case.

If you are outside the UK, ask politicians, prominent persons and organisations to invite Ali to your country and make Brown and Johnson aware of this request.

Ask those politicians, prominent persons and organisations to issue their own public statement in support of Hili's asylum prioritisation from the UK government.

Write to newspapers, write blog posts in support of Ali, tell people about Ali.

Please copy any letters to the campaign in support of Ali Hili to gayasylumuk@gmail.com

Join the Facebook page

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Cameron opposes 'be discrete' gay asylum policy?

David Cameron is a British politician, Leader ...Image via Wikipedia
By Paul Canning


In an interview for Attitude magazine - part of a series by gay journalist Johan Haari of The Independent - the Conservative Party leader David Cameron has suggested his awareness of and opposition to a key homophobic part of Labour's LGBT asylum policy.

They support judges who have refused claims on the basis that LGBT can return (to countries like Iran or Saudi Arabia) and 'be discrete'. It is homophobic as the policy does not exist for heterosexual asylum seekers and may breach the European Convention on Human Rights.

Haari's article says:
On an hour-long tour of the policies he will make as Prime Minister that specifically pertain to gay people, Cameron is by turns impressive, mediocre, and worrying. He is at his best and at his clearest – to my surprise – when it comes to refugees who are fleeing homophobic persecution. He says: "If you are fleeing persecution and that fear is well-founded, then you should be able to stay. As I understand it, the 1951 Convention [on the rights of refugees] doesn't mention sexuality, but because it mentions membership of a social group, that phrase is being used by the courts, rightly, to say that if someone has a realistic fear of persecution they should be allowed to stay."

At the moment, gay refugees are often told – under a Labour government – to go back home and hide their sexuality from police forces who would imprison, torture or kill them for it. I ask him if that is wrong – and he says unequivocally: "I think it is. If you have a legitimate fear of persecution, that it seems to me that is a perfectly legitimate reason to stay."
In an interview with Haari published in January the Prime Minister's response to the same question on their 'be discrete' policy was:
Asylum law is incredibly difficult, and you can’t ever have a blanket inclusion or exclusion. Every asylum case is going to be dealt with on its merits. I don’t think any party will give you an absolutist commitment on this question. But obviously, our whole party has been built on the idea that where there is persecution, we’ve got to be prepared to help them.
The Liberal Democrats have adopted policy which:
Guarantee any refugees genuinely fleeing a country because of persecution over their sexual orientation asylum in the UK.
Individual Conservative politicians have supported individual LGBT asylum seekers - most prominently in the case of the Iranian Mehdi Kazemi which featured a powerful speech against the UK's LGBT asylum policy by MEP John Bowis. However this website believes this is the first comment on LGBT asylum from the Conservative leadership.

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Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The coming UK election and LGBT asylum

Nick Clegg makes the Liberal Democrats' Leader...Image via Wikipedia
By Paul Canning

The leader of Britain's opposition Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, has restated his party's support for change in the UK's attitude to LGBT asylum seekers.

From an interview with The Independent:
On asylum seekers – an issue which is notoriously unpopular with the electorate – Mr Clegg was equally bullish, describing Britain’s asylum system as “the most inhumane, irrational, cruel systems imaginable”.

“It’s a moral stain on our collective consciousnesses,” he said. “The public debate has transformed asylum seekers into threats rather than human beings.”

He said Lib Dem policy would be that Britain should provide sanctuary to those fleeing persecution because of their sexual orientation: “It’s not just me that says this, it’s international law that says it.”
A party statement released alongside the interview summerised their policy as:
Guarantee any refugees genuinely fleeing a country because of persecution over their sexual orientation asylum in the UK.
Clegg has previously spoken out against "the astonishing brutality and cruelty that has become a part of our asylum system". The party passed a resolution 'Government must stop sending gay and lesbian people to their deaths' at its 2008 conference.

Apart from the LibDems, the UK Green party has good policy and has actively worked on the issue through their MEPs.

A general election in expected in the UK in May. Current polls suggest a possible hung parliament which may put the LibDems in a position to influence and achieve much needed changes in LGBT asylum policy and practice.

The UK Labour government has consistently denied its discriminatory treatment of LGBT asylum seekers — despite the numerous appalling cases documented on this website which led the widely respected NGO Human Rights Watch in 2008 to name the Home Office to its 'Hall of Shame'. Time and again only support from activists and campaigning has saved people against a government wanting to throw them back to the wolves.

Among the LGBT asylum cases — all refused asylum by the government and only won after a long legal fight by the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration group (UKGLIG), Outrage, Iraqi LGBT, the Lesbian Community Project in Manchester and others including local communities, refugee groups and churches — are:
  • Ugandans Prozzy Kazooma, who was marched for two miles naked through the streets, jailed, raped and tortured by police, Kizza Musinguzi, who was jailed for gay human rights work and subjected to four months of forced labour, water torture, beatings and rape, and John Bosco who was violently deported despite being personally targeted, with photos, by a homophobic Ugandan tabloid (Bosco was returned to the UK after a damning judicial decision and, despite Home Office efforts, subsequently given leave to remain). Another Ugandan was told by a judge in 2006 that women 'cannot be understood to be homosexual’.
  • A Jamaican lesbian, who was told to go back to her homeland because she would be in no danger as she was over 40 and therefore no longer sexually attractive.
  • Iraqi asylum seekers, still being told they can safely return to a country well documented to have active anti-LGBT death squads who kill gay men by filling their anuses with glue. 
  • Iranians Pegah Emambakhsh, whose partner was arrested, tortured and subsequently sentenced to death by stoning, and Mehdi Kazemi whose partner was also executed. 
  • An Algerian gay man who had been jailed for homosexuality. In prison, he was raped, beaten by inmates and guards and had his teeth knocked out.
Many others cases have been lost with people sent back to such violently homophobic countries as Cameroon and Nigeria - where a police warrant on charges of homosexuality and a solicitor's letter stating that he was likely to be sentenced to death by stoning wasn't enough to stop one gay man's deportation.

This record is news to the Labour Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, according to his statements in an interview this month with Johann Hari for Attitude Magazine:
[Q] Speaking of violence against gay people - there are some refugees fleeing countries where gay people are imprisoned or killed who make it to Britain, and they seem to face a contradictory policy. Some who are given the right to remain, but others are told to go back to their home country, hide their sexuality, and hope for the best. Do you think that’s acceptable?
[A] Asylum law is incredibly difficult, and you can’t ever have a blanket inclusion or exclusion. Every asylum case is going to be dealt with on its merits. I don’t think any party will give you an absolutist commitment on this question. But obviously, our whole party has been built on the idea that where there is persecution, we’ve got to be prepared to help them.

[Q] So your view is, if someone is from a country where they will be killed for being gay, and they make it to Britain, they’ve got a right to stay?
[A] What I’m saying is that every case is treated as an individual case. And the people who come to this country who are able to show that they are seeking asylum because the persecution that they’ve suffered is a risk to their life… that is something that we as a nation have traditionally accepted.
Notably, Brown didn't respond to Haari's question on the government's policy of expecting LGBT asylum seekers to go back to the country where they are fleeing from and 'be discreet' about their sexuality.

Last year Phil Woolas, Minister of State for borders and immigration, defended the 'be discreet' policy in an astonishing article promoting the presence of LGBT asylum seekers on the London Pride March as a Labour 'success story'. He said:
The Court of Appeal has found, in line with our policy that whether a gay claimant can reasonably be expected to tolerate behaving discreetly is something that must be considered on the individual merits of the case.
In a carefully worded response to this statement the UKGLIG said that this policy was plainly discriminatory:
Phil Woolas claims that “a degree of discretion can be required in all sexual relationships, heterosexual as well as homosexual”, which implies that the measure of discretion required would be applied equally. This is clearly not the case and in practice LGBT persons would be forced to have to live a lie.
Moreover, this reference to discretion does not reflect the realities of most LGBT asylum claims: applicants simply want a life in which they can be who they are and/or have a relationship with their partner, without fearing death, violence, rape, prosecution, forced marriage or losing their livelihood or homes. Their claims are not about seeking the right to commit ‘public indecencies’. However, within the legal, social, cultural or religious framework in many of their home countries, an (open or secret) LGBT identity or same sex relationship is often, in and of itself, considered ‘indecent’.
Kerry Maskell, Project Coordinator of the Lesbian Community Project in Manchester says:
We see people who have just arrived. They come in scared and quiet, afraid to talk to others or about themselves. We see them gain confidence and become vibrant wonderful people. Why would anyone want to take that away from them and put them back to being the people they were when they arrived?
A female asylum seeker from Saudi Arabia who Maskell has recently worked with has been told to go home and be discreet. She fled the country when her sister, who was also gay, disappeared from a safe house in her own country. She does not know what happened to her sister, only that she is dead.
Our group member fled the country with her two sons, who are not aware of her sexuality. She does not want to tell her sons or fully ‘come out’ until she knows that she can stay in the country as she fears, if people find out, she will be killed if she is sent home. She was told in court that, as she is not out in this country, she may as well go back to her own country and not be out there! She did win her case but the Home Office appealed against it and she now has to go through the whole process again.
Minister Woolas' attitude to people like Maskell defending LGBT asylum seekers was stated in a 2008 interview where he derided a "vested interest" of 'NGOs and migration lawyers giving false hope and undermining the legal system'.

More evidence that Woolas is operating a discriminatory and homophobic regime was in a report published last year which found that lesbian asylum seekers are not being protected by the UK Border Agency and their particular problems go unrecognised. Discrimination, abuse, harassment and violence, including rape, against them was common to the experience related by the women interviewed. They told of violence against them by people employed by the Government.

Last year UKLGIG said that:
Transmen are being detained in Yarl’s Wood – a female-only detention centre, gay men are forced to live with other detainees from their country of origin who often hold the same the homophobic views as the society they are escaping from.

Continuous allegations of physical assault and racial abuse by guards forced former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith last year to ask Nuala O'Loan, the former Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland, to conduct an investigation. But there has been no action by Labour on reports of the homophobic mistreatment of LGBT asylum seekers.

LGBT asylum activist Peter Tatchell has helped numerous people and has extensive experience of what he calls 'Britain's homophobic asylum system'. He, more than anyone, knows how Labour has reneged on what few pledges have been squeezed out of it on LGBT asylum.

At the London LGBT Pride Rally in 2008 Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman was booed due to the government's treatment of Mehdi Kazemi.

Kazemi is a gay Iranian teenager who the Home Office wanted removed despite his young boyfriend having been executed. Kazemi was only saved from a similar fate because of an international campaign leading to the conservative Dutch government (which operates a humane LGBT asylum policy) extracting concessions from then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith - Kazemi had fled the UK for the Netherlands.

Questioned after Kazemi eventually won 'leave to remain', Smith refused requests for a moratorium on the return of LGBT asylum seekers to Iran, claiming:
The evidence does not show a real risk of discovery of, or adverse action against, gay and lesbian people who are discreet about their sexual orientation.
Since 2000 at least two Iranian gay asylum seekers have committed suicide rather than be returned.

29-year old Israfil Shiri, who had fled Iran when the authorities there discovered he was gay, was one. He walked into the offices of Refugee Action in Manchester, doused himself in petrol and burned himself alive.

Says Peter Tatchell:
At his asylum hearing, the adjudicator turned down his application, citing ‘lack of evidence.’ Unable to find a lawyer willing to represent him, or to produce expert evidence on the persecution of gay people in Iran, he also lost his appeal. 

Within days, the National Asylum Support Service ordered his eviction from the asylum hostel where he had been housed, turning him out in the street. Simultaneously, the government cut off his benefits. Banned from working, Shiri ended up homeless and destitute. Like many other asylum-seekers, he was forced to sleep on the streets and scrounge discarded food from rubbish bins. 

His health rapidly deteriorated. But having no address, he could not register with a GP to get treatment. 
The government has Shiri’s blood on its hands. It is enforcing an inhuman asylum system. The Home Office bears a large degree of responsibility for the suicide of this young gay man. It treated Shiri as a criminal, when in reality he was the victim of criminal abuse and neglect – both in Iran and in the UK.
As she stepped down from the London Pride stage after being booed, Tachell spoke with Harman. At a subsequent meeting with Harman and Minister Barbara Follett a "mechanism whereby [Tatchell] could report abuses and [they] would take action to put them right" was agreed. However this agreement fell apart at its first test when the two Ministers committed what Tatchell describes as "a betrayal of the trust and commitment that I thought we had established" by refusing to make any representations in the case of the deported gay Azerbaijani asylum seeker Babi Badalov.

As often happens, Badalov was called in to a meeting, seized and quickly put on a plane. He couldn't even pack a bag so was left on arrival in the Azerbaijani capital Baku with just the clothes he was wearing. Once there he was forced into hiding with fellow artists (he has been exhibited in several countries) due to 'honour' threats of death from family members. His sister had warned him over the phone never to come to the country again.

He said:
I can’t tell you how horrible it is. If I die and there’s a funeral, nobody will come: the mullah won’t come, nobody will read the Koran. [The body of a gay man] is a dirty, foul body. It cannot be touched; it cannot be washed. It must be thrown into a pit, because it’s so shameful. This attitude still exists there.
When he was being put onto the plane Badalov reported being told by a Border Agent, "you make us sick, you're going back where you belong.” He is now in Paris after fleeing first to St Petersberg.

Tatchell is not the only one who has tried to lobby Labour.

UKLGIG say that they have been asking for years for an LGBT Asylum Policy Instruction (API) which is used to guide UK Border Agency (UKBA) staff. Apart from sole case where asylum has been quickly granted, the Nigerian gay Christian leader Davis Mac-Iyalla, the one and only breakthrough which this author is aware of is that the UKBA have invited UKLGIG to make presentations to case workers on LGBT asylum issues. However the charity puts this in context:
We are very pleased the UKBA have taken this step, but more in-depth training is very much needed and we are discussing this with the UKBA at the moment. In order to achieve fair decision making, caseworkers would require detailed knowledge and understanding of not only LGBT asylum issues, but of these issues in very specific cultural contexts.
One major reason that this 'understanding' hasn't been happening is because of what UKLGIG describe as the "quality and quantity of information on LGBT issues within the country of origin information (COI) prepared and used by the UKBA in their decision making". This despite a 2006 commitment wrung from the Home Office that UKLGIG would have input directly into the process of information gathering as it relates to human rights abuses of sexual minorities globally. And again, following a 2008 independent review of COI which told UKBA what they should have already realised, rather than right this wrong themselves from their own vast resources, they looked instead to the small, under-resourced charity UKLGIG for help.

The debacle with Harman and Tatchell as well as the extensive concerns most prominently featured in the press by the Mehdi Kazemi case led the party's LGBT activist organisation, LGBT Labour, to pass a resolution at its AGM last year which highlighted problems they saw with the government's policy and practice. They proposed:
  • That LGBT people should not be asked to prove their sexuality and that the Home Office and Borders and Immigration Agency respect the right of individuals to self define as LGBT.
  • That the Borders and Immigration Agency employ specialist LGBT “case owners” who have received specific training in handling LGBT asylum cases.
  • That the UK Government should not return people on the pretext that they will have to “hide” their sexuality on return to their home country.
As well as Labour LGBT, some Labour politicians have also expresssed concerns (though this has not included any of the party's prominent gay or lesbian MPs), which has undoubtedly helped specific cases. One Labour candidate has called for 'A fair deal for gay asylum seekers'. Yet in policy and practice terms almost nothing has changed for the better for LGBT refugees — and, as those working with LGBT refugees testify, much has changed for the worse.

Despite PM Brown's claims, case after case has demonstrated Labour's indifference on the issue of LGBT refugees. Woolas and Smith's statements on the 'discretion' policy shows that discrimination lies at the heart of that indifference. The lack of any action on advice from the likes of UKGLIG shows a consistent failure of leadership on LGBT equality in the Home Office.

Although some opposition Conservative politicians have shown support for individual cases, this website is unaware of any statement or answer to a journalist's question from the Conservative leadership suggesting that they will review current Home Office/UK Border Agency policy and practice on LGBT asylum.

[UPDATE: Cameron opposes 'be discrete' gay asylum policy?]


With only a few months to go before the election campaign, unless Labour can somehow do better than PM Brown's ignorant and bland statement "our whole party has been built on the idea that where there is persecution, we’ve got to be prepared to help", there is no reason to think that a Conservative government would do any worse.

For anyone concerned that the UK should and can do much better at providing sanctuary for LGBT fleeing persecution, execution and torture, on their policy, actions and in order to influence some real change this website's recommendation is vote Green or LibDem.







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Sunday, 29 November 2009

Gordon Brown raises anti-gay laws with Ugandan president


Source: pinknews.co.uk

The prime minister has raised Uganda's controversial proposed laws on homosexuality with the country's president at the Commonwealth Heads of Government conference in Trinidad. Gordon Brown told Yoweri Museveni that he was opposed to laws that could result in the execution of gays.

A Downing Street source said: "The Foreign Office will be following the passage of the bill closely and we will continue to do everything we can privately and publically to prevent its passage . . . it has been raised in the strongest terms at the highest possible level today."

The bill, which had its first reading in Parliament last month,would mean death or life imprisonment for those convicted of homosexuality. Those found guilty of "promoting" homosexuality would also received harsh punishments.

The death penalty would be used against those found guilty of "aggravated homosexuality"- a sexual act where one person has HIV or AIDS.

Gay rights groups have urged Commonwealth leaders to throw Uganda out of the Commonwealth unless it drops the proposed law.

Earlier this week, Museveni said: "I hear European homosexuals are recruiting in Africa.
“We used to have very few homosexuals traditionally. They were not persecuted but were not encouraged either because it was clear that is not how God arranged things to be.”

"You should discourage your colleagues [who are gay] because God was not foolish to do the way he arranged.

"Mr and Mrs, but now you have to say Mr and Mr? What is that now?”

Earlier this month, the Foreign Office told PinkNews.co.uk: "The adoption of the bill could do serious damage to efforts to tackle HIV and its criminalisation of organisations that support homosexuality could, in theory, encompass most donor agencies and international NGOs.

"The UK, alongside our EU partners, has raised our concerns about the draft bill and LGBT rights more broadly with the government of Uganda, including with the prime minister and several other ministers, the Ugandan Human Rights Commission, and senior officials from the Ugandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"We will continue to track the passage of the bill and to lobby against its introduction."

Although Brown's discussions with President Museveni have not been made public, his spokesperson said that he raised the issues and that the British government's view on this matter was clear.

Brown's position was echoed by Canada's prime minister Stephen Harper. His spokesman said: "If adopted, a bill further criminalising homosexuality would constitute a significant step backwards for the protection of human rights in Uganda."

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Tatchell barred from Pride parties by Brown + Boris

By Paul Canning

If you were to stop people in a British street and ask them to name a gay rights campaigner I would bet money they would name Peter Tatchell. For twenty years he has been in front of the media.

Yes, Sir Ian McKellan is more famous but I doubt most people would see him as a more prominent campaigner than Tatchell.

But Peter is a thorn in the side, not least to those who are quick to praise the Labour government on LGBT issues and slow to critique it. Last year he had a very public word with Harriet Harman at London Pride about LGBT asylum - 'why are we sending gays back to Iran?' This followed her being heckled as she spoke. Of course Harman made promises which were immediately forgotten about.

Most notable of those who don't like Tatchell are the gay establishment, those whom Labour have awarded gongs to. So it's unsurprising to learn that when Ten Downing Street hosts an event for Pride Month on Saturday morning Tatchell won't be there. Neither will he be at Mayor of London, Boris Johnson's soirée, according to Tatchell's tweet, despite being a patron!



Tatchell also says about another Downing Street event in March, held to dismiss the widely believed idea that Gordon doesn't like the gays, he was actively dismissed from the guest list.

An insider tipped me off that my name had been removed from the invite list, at Gordon Brown's personal request. He was apparently still angry that I had heckled him over his government's erosion of civil liberties, when he opened the Taking Liberties exhibition at the British Library late last year.
You could imagine that those invited into the golden circle are not exactly likely to say 'I'm not coming if Tatchell's not there' given that Peter says they're "tame apologists for Labour". And that is precisely what is happening.

Not that Tatchell gives a shit:

I don't do my human rights work to win awards, honours or invites. It doesn't matter to me that I haven't been invited.

What angers me is the principle - the way the Prime Minister invites and fetes mostly tame pro-Labour loyalists in the LGBT community. It is a manipulative tactic by an insecure government that knows its record on LGBT human rights is not as glorious as it claims.

And if the evidence of the Mayor's non-invitation is anything to go by "mostly tame pro-Labour loyalists in the LGBT community" deliberately exclude him precisely because he just so damned awkward.

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Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Downing Street response to LGBT asylum petition

10 Downing StreetImage by Mrs. Knook via Flickr
We received a petition asking:
“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to urgently review the way LGBT asylum seekers are treated.”
Details of Petition
“In the light of the cases of Pegah Emembakhsh and Mehdi Kazemi, Iranian LGBT asylum seekers, who sought asylum in the UK, we call upon the Prime Minister for an urgent review of the treatment of all LGBT asylum seekers. In particular we think that the following are needed for fair treatment - 1. Compulsory training for all asylum staff on sexual-orientation and trans-awareness. 2. Explicit instructions to all immigration and asylum staff, and asylum judges, that homophobic and transphobic persecution are legitimate grounds for granting asylum. 3. Clearer and up-to-date guidance from the Home Office for asylum judges to reflect the accurate scale of LGBT persecution throughout the world using expert information from NGOs like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. 4. Legal-aid funding for asylum claims needs to be substantially increased.”

The Government’s response

Thank you for your e-petition requesting an urgent review the treatment of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) asylum seekers.

In accordance with our international obligations, the Government is fully committed to providing protection to all individuals who need it.  We have backed this promise with a considerable investment in people and processes in order to deliver a fairer and faster asylum system.  This includes a 55 day foundation training programme for new asylum case owners followed by ongoing learning and development activities.  Consideration of applications from people expressing a fear of persecution on the grounds of being lesbian, gay, bisexual or a transgender person is explicitly covered in the training.  This is reinforced by clear written instructions for decision-makers.  Decision-makers are also supported by accurate, objective and regularly updated country specific information.  Similarly, Immigration Judges all receive full training in diversity and refugee law and carry out their assessment of refused claims impartially, on behalf of the courts.

Each asylum and human rights claim is considered on its individual merits in accordance with our obligations under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).  Decision-makers in the UK Border Agency have clear instructions about the criteria they must apply and how they should reach a decision.  If an applicant demonstrates a need for international protection and they meet the definition of a refugee under the terms of the 1951 Convention, asylum is granted.  If they are otherwise vulnerable they may engage our obligations under the ECHR, in which case they will be granted Humanitarian Protection or Discretionary Leave.  If their application is refused, they have a right of appeal to the Asylum Immigration Tribunal or an opportunity to seek judicial review through the higher courts.  Asylum Instructions setting out the detailed procedures and criteria for deciding asylum applications are published on the UK Border Agency website at: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/policyandlaw/guidance/asylumprocess/

To maintain a high standard of decision quality, a Quality Audit team assess 20% of decisions made across the regional asylum teams, using an assessment form designed jointly with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and feed back findings to decision-makers and managers.  The UNHCR currently conduct random peer reviews of the Quality Audit team’s assessments. We recognise that the conditions for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in some countries are such that there may be individuals who are able to demonstrate a need for international protection – instructions to decision-makers are clear that they may qualify for asylum on the grounds of persecution as a member of a particular social group.

However, we do not accept that there should be a presumption that each and every asylum seeker of a particular nationality who presents themselves as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender should automatically be afforded protection in the UK.  It is in keeping with the terms of the Refugee Convention that every case is assessed individually on the basis of all the available information against the Refugee Convention and ECHR criteria.

Legal aid funding is designed to help those who can least afford to pay to obtain legal advice, assistance and representation when necessary.  There is no nationality or residence qualification for receiving either civil or criminal legal aid.  The Legal Services Commission (LSC) administers the legal aid system in England and Wales.  The LSC is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Ministry of Justice.  We do not believe that the current funding arrangements are inadequate.
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Monday, 23 June 2008

gayasylumuk condemns "inhumane, anti-gay" Labour government

MEDIA RELEASE

23rd June, 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE USE

gayasylumuk condemns "inhumane, anti-gay" Labour government

The campaigning group gayaylumuk today called the comments of British Labour Home Secretary Jacqui Smith about retuning gays and lesbians to Iran "outrageous, shameful, inhumane and anti-gay".

In a letter to the LibDem MP Lord Roberts, Smith echoed government policy by claiming that it was safe to return people if they were "discreet".

Spokesperson, Paul Canning, said "we are calling for protest to be directed at Gordon Brown over the issue. Sign the petition."

"We hope that gay and lesbian Labour voters in particular will consider changing their vote if the policy isn't changed before the next election. This is one way to get the message through on their hypocrisy regarding lesbian and gay rights issues — when embassies in other countries are flying the rainbow flag they aren't doing this in Tehran, Kingston or Kampala."

Human Rights Watch (HRW), the respected international authority often quoted by the government, has documented the persecution and torture of gays and lesbians in Iran, where sex can attract the death penalty.

In March they issued an alert over the raiding of a private party in Ishfahan. In May the Home Office was added to their 'Hall of Shame'.

Scott Long of HRW said: "Torturing and killing gays is legal in Iran: you don't need to view the bodies to prove it. International law bars Britain from returning people to the risk of torture. Britain must give gay Iranians asylum."

"Human Rights Watch has shown how Britain tries to redefine its obligations on torture, so it can send people back to states where they face grave risk. Usually it happens in the context of counterterrorism. But with gay Iranians, too, the government aims to change the rules, denying that legal torture is "persecution"."

gayasylumuk believes that the number of such asylum seekers in the UK is small, maybe 30. Such small numbers is also the case in other countries.

"The Dutch experience shows that a proven, tested model exists of how to operate a humane asylum policy for gays and lesbians - and they haven't had a 'flood'", said Canning.

"Similar policy and practice exists in the United States, Canada and Sweden - why is the UK alone in being inhumane and disregarding international law?"

gayasylumuk countered the government's position, as restated in the Medhi Kazemi case in the House of Lords by the Home Office Minister, Lord West.

"We are extremely cautious about the way in which we treat these cases"
They have shown no evidence of caution. For a number of years they have consistently refused asylum to gays and lesbians and transgender people who would suffer persecution if returned, because that is their policy. Some of these people have committed suicide rather than be returned. There is a mass of evidence that Iran and other countries like Jamaica and Uganda are a 'deathzone'.

"We give detailed consideration to these cases"

This is not the experience of asylum seekers, and this is well documented. They do not consider the stated opinion of their own colleagues in the Foreign Office and never have. They misrepresent evidence of torture and systematic harassment by Human Rights Watch and other NGOs.

"They go through a rigorous appeals and court process"
As Smith has just reiterated, there is a Home Office policy that gays and lesbians can be returned if they are 'discreet'. Further, there is a history of the Home Office accepting bland assurances from the Iranian and other governments. Further, there is a lot of evidence of homophobic attitudes within the Appeals Court process.

"Obviously we have to follow and respect the integrity of that process"
Not if it is biased. Not if the outcome is guaranteed because of their (unstated) policy. There is no integrity to this process for gays and lesbians.

The group is calling on all British people outraged by government policy to sign the petition, established by Durham Methodist minister Walter Attwood, which says: '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'. to Gordon Brown (at http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/Stopdeportinggay/).

This petition says: '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'.

The petition has almost 3000 signatures but needs many more to achieve significance in the Number Ten petitions system, established by Downing Street to affect and inform policy.

gayasylumuk is a campaign group established by Omar Kuddas. It has supporters in the UK, USA, Europe and around the world.


A button promoting the petition to Gordon Brown, for use on websites and blogs, can also be found on our website.

~~~~~~

Independent: Iran is safe for 'discreet' gays, says Jacqui Smith

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Why we changed this website's name


This website was established to campaign for Mehdi Kazemi. We won 'leave to remain' for him but if Jacqui Smith can save Mehdi she can also save these other lesbians and gays from what would have been Mehdi's fate. You can help by telling her boss - Gordon Brown - this.

We need to change the government policy which led to Mehdi being denied asylum in the first place.

Please sign the petition to Gordon Brown to 'stop deporting gays and lesbians to countries where they may be imprisoned, tortured or executed because of their sexuality

gayasylumuk wants more to sign petition to Gordon Brown


MEDIA RELEASE
15TH June

FOR IMMEDIATE USE

gayasylumuk wants more to sign petition to Gordon Brown

The campaigning group gayaylumuk today called on all those moved by the plight of the 19-yo Iranian Mehdi Kazemi to support other lesbian and gay asylum seekers at risk of return to torture and possible death.

The group is calling on all British people outraged by government policy to sign the petition to Gordon Brown (at http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/Stopdeportinggay/).

This petition, established by Durham Methodist minister Walter Attwood, says: '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'.

The petition has almost 3000 signatures but needs many more to achieve significance in the Number Ten petitions system, established by Downing Street to affect and inform policy.

The group has also established an international petition to support Prossy Kakooza, a 26-year-old lesbian woman seeking asylum in the UK. She fled Uganda after suffering vicious sexual, physical and verbal attacks due to her sexual orientation. Her application has been refused with Prossy being told she can return and 'be discrete' when this is not an option in Uganda.

International petition for Prossy http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/ProssyKakooza/

We are also highlighting the cases of:

* Pegah Emambakhsh, an Iranian lesbian threatened by the British government with deportation to torture and possible death by stoning.
* Gay Syrian refugee JoJo Jako Yakob, who fled his homeland two years ago after being arrested, shot and beaten.
* Babakhan 'Babi' Badalov, a target of repression and persecution as an openly gay radical artist and poet in Azerbaijan.

Their claims for asylum has all been dismissed.

Spokesperson Paul Canning said, "LGBT refugees fleeing torture and possible murder are routinely being refused asylum because of UK government policy. This is at the same time as British embassy's abroad are flying the rainbow flag — it's hypocritical."

"Many other countries, such as Holland, the United States and Sweden do not treat LGBT asylum seekers this way and the evidence shows that there is no 'flood' if you adopt humane policies. The government needs to change its shameful attitude and we are calling on British people to tell them it is, indeed, shaming."

gayasylumuk is a campaign group established by Omar Kuddas. It has supporters in the UK, USA, Europe and around the world.

Further information about Prossy, Pegah, JoJo and Babi can be found on 'LGBT asylum news (formally Save Mehdi Kazemi)', the campaign's website http://www.medhikazemi.com

Further information on Rev. Walter Attwood http://www.durhamdeernessmethodist.org.uk/ministers.shtml

-- ENDS --

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