Gay asylum seekers win protection from deportation
Gay and lesbian asylum seekers have won the right not to be deported from the UK if they would be persecuted in their home countries.
The supreme court unanimously allowed appeals from two men, from Cameroon and Iran, whose claims had earlier been turned down because officials said they could hide their sexuality by behaving discreetly.
The government accepted the ruling and said that policy on gay and lesbian asylum seekers would be changed with immediate effect.
Lord Hope, heading the panel of five judges, said that to force a gay man to pretend his sexuality did not exist or should be suppressed was a breach of his fundamental rights. The court also laid down a framework on how asylum claims by gay and lesbian people should be determined.
The ruling was welcomed by the home secretary, Theresa May, and equality campaigners. May said: “We have already promised to stop the removal of asylum seekers who have had to leave particular countries because their sexual orientation or gender identification puts them at proven risk of imprisonment, torture or execution.
“I do not believe it is acceptable to send people home and expect them to hide their sexuality to avoid persecution.
“From today asylum decisions will be considered under the new rules and the judgment gives an immediate legal basis for us to reframe our guidance for assessing claims based on sexuality, taking into account relevant country guidance and the merits of each individual case.”
John Wadham, the legal director of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which intervened in the case before the court, said: “A gay person should be allowed to live openly if they choose. Concealing their sexual identity to avoid persecution is not something they should be forced to tolerate.”
Jill Roberts, the chief executive of the charity Refugee Action, said the present system “was effectively asking gay people to deny their own identity and live with the daily threat of discovery”.
Ben Summerskill, the head of the campaign group Stonewall, said demanding that lesbian or gay people conceal their sexuality bore “no resemblance to the reality of gay life in many countries”.
“We’re delighted the government is responding to what we asked of all the political parties in the run-up to the election. Our report No Going Back shows that UK Border Agency staff urgently need better guidance and support to deal with cases involving gay asylum seekers.”
Excerpt from The Guardian