Monday, May 24, 2010

The UK's homophobic asylum policy

New Zealand is a liberal country where its relatively safe to be gay. We decriminalised homosexuality in 1986, and while there is still some bigotry and the odd hate crime, there is no official persecution. Elsewhere in the world, things aren't so pleasant. At least eight countries have the death penalty for homosexuality. In others, gays may face imprisonment, persecution, or violence. As a result, some flee and seek safety in more civilised countries. And if they make it to the UK, the government sends them back to face persecution and death:

Britain's immigration system is guilty of "institutional homophobia", according to a new report. The result is that 98 per cent of gay asylum-seekers fleeing persecution for their sexuality are returned home to a likely fate of death or persecution, says the report.


The report, No Going Back, found that between 2005 and 2009 almost all cases involving people claiming asylum on the basis of their sexual orientation were refused by the Home Office. During the same period the general refusal rate for asylum-seekers in the UK was 76.5 per cent.


Many cases are turned down simply on the basis that someone fleeing a country where homosexuality is punishable by death or hard labour could simply "live discreetly" – in other words, go into hiding. UKBA staff admitted this was discriminatory.

No shit its discriminatory - the massive disparity in success rate between gay and non-gay asylum seekers shows that. Its also absolutely monstrous. And when case workers are asking people questions like "Why do you choose to be homosexual when you know it is illegal in your own country," it shows both a complete lack of understanding and a complete lack of empathy.

(And before anyone gets too smug: that demand to "live discretely" is one New Zealand makes of those fleeing religious persecution...)

No-one should have to "live discretely". Everyone should be free to be who they are. And where countries persecute people for their racial, ethnic, religious, political, or sexual identity, then other countries should provide protection to anyone who escapes. It is simply the decent thing to do.