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Gay asylum seekers win persecution appeal

7 July 2010

Two gay men have won the right to asylum in the UK after claiming they faced persecution in their home countries.

A Supreme Court ruling delivered today, unanimously allowed appeals by the men, HT from Cameroon and HJ from Iran, against a ruling that their situation would be "reasonably tolerable" in their home countries because they could avoid ill treatment if they concealed their sexuality by behaving discreetly.

The five justices dismissed this approach, holding that to compel a homosexual person to pretend that their sexuality does not exist, or to require them to suppress the manifestation of it, was to deny them their fundamental identity.

The correct approach, the judges said, was a staged one. The first question was whether the person is actually gay and then, if they were, it should be asked whether they would be liable to persecution in their home country because of their sexuality. If they would have to conceal aspects of their sexuality and live discreetly if returned because of the real fear of persecution, they should be entitled to asylum.

Denial of rights

Delivering the court's judgment, Lord Hope said: "To compel a homosexual person to pretend that his sexuality does not exist or suppress the behaviour by which to manifest itself is to deny his fundamental right to be who he is. Homosexuals are as much entitled to freedom of association with others who are of the same sexual orientation as people who are straight."

Homosexual acts in Iran attract penalties ranging from public flogging to death, and in Cameroon prison sentences of up to five years.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission, which supported the appeals, welcomed the decision. Legal director John Wadham said: “This judgment sends a clear message to the Government that they must properly take into account a genuine risk of mistreatment due to a person’s sexuality when reviewing asylum status.

“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.”

The men's cases have been sent back for the Home Office to reconsider. Home Secretary Theresa May said the judgment vindicated the coalition Government's stance.

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