The British Government is currently failing gay refugees, Peter Tatchell has told a rally in Whitehall, outside the Prime Minister’s official residence 10 Downing Street.
Over 120 protesters braved hail and rain on Saturday to demand that gay Iranian asylum seeker, Mehdi Kazemi, be granted refuge in the UK.
They also urged asylum for the Iranian lesbian refugee, Pegah Emambakhsh, and an estimated 12 other gay Iranians who are at risk of deportation back to Tehran.
There were calls for a “fundamental reform” of the way the Home Office treats LGBTI asylum applicants.
“The British government had ordered Mr Kazemi to be deported back to Iran,” said protest speaker Peter Tatchell, spokesperson for the LGBTI human rights group OutRage!.
Following worldwide protests, the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith MP, has agreed to review Mehdi’s case.
“While there is no guarantee that this review will result in him being allowed to stay, we are hopeful that he will be permitted to lodge a fresh asylum claim and that this will result in Mehdi being given refugee status in the UK,” he said.
Saturday’s protest was sponsored by Middle East Workers’ Solidarity and the National Union of Students LGBT campaign, with the support of OutRage!
The protest’s three main statements and demands were:
Don’t send Mehdi Kazemi back to Iran
Iran’s homophobic laws violate human rights
Give the victims of homophobic persecution the right to settle in the UK
“There needs to be a fundamental reform of the way the Home Office processes LGBTI asylum applications,” Mr. Tatchell told the rally:
“The government is currently failing LGBTI refugees: Asylum staff and adjudicators receive race and gender awareness training but no training at all on sexual orientation issues,” he pointed out.
“As a result, they often make stereotyped assumptions: that a feminine woman can’t be a lesbian or that a masculine man cannot be gay. They sometimes rule that someone who has been married must be faking their homosexuality.
“The government refuses to explicitly rule that homophobic and transphobic persecution are legitimate grounds for granting asylum. This signals to asylum staff and judges that claims by LGBTI people are not as worthy as those based on persecution because of a person’s ethnicity, gender, politics or faith.
“The Home Office country reports on homophobic and transphobic persecution are often partial, inaccurate and misleading. They consistently downplay the severity of victimisation suffered by LGBTI people in violently homophobic countries like Iran, Nigeria, Iraq, Uganda, Palestine, Algeria and Jamaica,” said Tatchell.