Mehdi Must Stay Demo: Call to Reform Asylum System to Protect Lesbian, Gay Refugees






■ Protestors in Whitehall on Saturday demanding that Mehdi Kazemi be granted refuge in the UK.
photo courtesy Outrage!, London

LONDON, March 25, 2008  –  The British Government is currently failing gay refugees, Peter Tatchell 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 emphasised.

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 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.

“Cuts in the funding of legal aid for asylum claims means that most asylum applicants – gay and straight – are unable to prepare an adequate submission at their asylum hearing.

“Most solicitors don’t get paid enough to procure the necessary witness statements, medical reports and other vital corroborative evidence.

“The Home Office has failed to take action to stamp out anti-gay abuse, threats and violence in UK asylum detention centres.

“Some LGBTI detainees report suffering homophobic or transphobic victimisation, and say they have failed to receive adequate protection or support from detention centre staff,” said Mr Tatchell.

Peter Tatchell of Outrage! (left) and Derek Lennard of International Day Against Homophobia at the demonstration.
photo courtesy Outrage!, London


Don’t Believe Iranian Propaganda on Gays, Urges Gay Humanists.  The Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) has demanded that the Government clarify its approach to the deportation of gay people to Iran after a spokesman in the House of Lords claimed there was no evidence that gays were being executed because of their sexuality.  (UK Gay News, March 24, 2008)

Deportation of Gays to Iran Again Raised in Parliament as Lib Dems Apply Pressure.  The Government is coming under pressure from members of both houses of Parliament, mainly Liberal Democrats, to “come clean” about policies on who are deported to Iran – especially gay men and women.  (UK Gay News, March 19, 2008)

Gay Iranian in Europe: Mehdi Says ‘Thank You’.  Mehdi Kazemi, the 19-years-old gay Iranian currently in a Netherlands detention centre awaiting removal to the UK where, until yesterday he was concerned that he would be immediately returned to Iran, has this morning thanked his many supporters throughout the world.  (UK Gay News, March 14, 2008)

Home Secretary to Review Case of Gay Iranian Teen As Euro Parliament Backs Mehdi.  The UK Government is to review the case of Mehdi Kazemi after the European Parliament expressed its support for a motion tabled by Michael Cashman MEP.  (UK Gay News, March 14, 2008)

Gays in Iran: Lib Dems Attack Home Office While Peers Quiz Government.  The Home Office needs to understand that gay men and women face arrest and execution in Iran, the Liberal Democrats for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality group DELGA said last night.  (UK Gay News, March 12, 2008)

Gay Iranian Teen Loses Appeal in Netherlands Court – To Be Returned to UK.  Cashman Takes Plight of Mehdi to the European Parliament.  Mehdi Kazemi, the 19-years-old gay Iranian has lost his fight to remain in the Netherlands, a Dutch judge ruled this afternoon.  His uncle, Saeed, was told the news by the Dutch lawyer on the telephone.  (UK Gay News, March 11, 2008)

Christmas Gift from Netherlands for Gay Iranian – One Way Ticket to UK.  It was not the Christmas present that a young gay Iranian wanted.  A court in the Netherlands has ruled that Mehdi, the gay Iranian teenager, has to be returned to the United Kingdom, where he faces deportation back to Iran.  (UK Gay News, December 24, 2008)

Gay Iranian Teen Awaits Decision of Dutch Court Over Return to UK A young gay Iranian, who fled the United Kingdom in fear after his asylum application with the Home Office’s Border and Immigration Agency failed earlier this year, will be spending the festive season hoping that a Dutch court will allow him to stay in the Netherlands.  (UK Gay News, December 21, 2007)

They Hang Gay Teenagers, Don’t They?  A gay Iranian teenager whose asylum claim was denied in the UK fled to the Netherlands, and then to Germany. The Germans returned him to the Dutch, who are now threatening to return him to the Brits, who have already decided to return the gay teenager to Iran.  And you know what they do to gay teenagers in Iran, right? (Seattle Stranger - USA, December 20)

Young Gay Iranian Soon on His Way Back to UK?  Mehdi, the young gay Iranian who fled the United Kingdom in April, could be back in the country within weeks, his uncle revealed last night.  (UK Gay News, October 17, 2007)

Nineteen Year Old Says ‘I Am an Iranian Gay’The following email has been received by the IRanian Queer Organisation in Toronto from a young gay man who was studying at school in UK and, after difficulties with the UK Home Office over asylum managed to flee England, ending up in the Netherlands.  The letter is published here as written.  (UK Gay News, September 26, 2007)

Don’t Leave Iranian Gays Abandoned.  By Mehdi.   This article was written by a 19-years-old gay Iranian who tells how, while he was a student in London, his boyfriend back home was executed for being gay.  Mehdi says he was scared of returning home and meeting the same fate when his student visa expired last year – and of his asylum application to the Home Office.  (UK Gay News, April 18, 2007)


Peter Tatchell website

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Posted: 4 March 2008 at 01:30 (UK time)




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