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MPs and celebs back petition on gay asylum seekers

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More than 4,000 people have signed a petition on the Downing St website calling for an end to gay deportations.

It asks the Prime Minister to stop deporting gays and lesbians to countries where they may be imprisoned, tortured or executed because of their sexuality.

Among the signatories are actors Simon Callow and Cathy Tyson, playwright Jonathan Harvey, Labour MP Celia Barlow, Lib Dems Lorely Burt and Tom Brake and former Labour minister Stephen Twigg.

The deadline for signatures March 7th.

Green MEPs Jean Lambert and Caroline Lucas, Conservative MEP John Bowis, Labour MEPs Eluned Morgan, Claude Moraes and Glenys Kinnock and LibDem MPs Lynne Featherstone and Jo Swinson have also signed up.

The petition was initiated by the Reverend Walter Attwood.

“Given that the numbers of cases are so small and the situations which people are fleeing from so well documented, their stance is completely untenable,” said gay asylum activist Paul Canning.

“It is also well-documented that homophobia exists in the Home Office so we simply do not believe their position that these cases are given ‘due and fair consideration.’

“The Canadian Immigration Minister has just announced that he will consider using the services of lesbian and gay immigration groups to help bring genuine asylum seekers from Iran to his country.

“We believe that the Home Office should consider doing the same here.

“These groups are best positioned to weed out the genuine cases – those people who should be welcomed here as their cases are formally assessed.

“For the government to do otherwise would, we believe, highlight its hypocrisy when it comes to the situation of lesbians and gays overseas.

“We believe that the British people do not support the policies and actions of the Home Office.

“We believe that they recognise lesbians and gays fleeing regimes such as Iran as genuine asylum seekers of the sort this country has historically made welcome here.

“Please urge everyone you know to sign the petition so as many people as possible can send this message to Gordon Brown.”

Lin Homer, chief executive of the Borders and Immigration Agency (BIA), has caused a furore amongst human rights groups last year when she said that judges should consider the “practical consequences” of sending gay asylum seekers back to their country of origin, and not that country’s social or legal views on homosexuality.

Ms Homer said that bans or conservative views on homosexuality in asylum seekers’ home countries are not reason enough to allow them to stay in Britain.

“What the court takes into account is the practical consequences for the individuals concerned,” she said.

“The simple presence of either a law or a culture that frowns upon homosexuality is not of itself a reason [to grant asylum].

“I think these decisions are made carefully and thoughtfully.”

Ms Homer insisted that the information used by the BIA when deciding whether to deport gay asylum seekers is thorough and accurate.

Last month the European Commission affirmed that persecution on grounds of sexual orientation is a legitimate justification for an asylum claim.

The question was prompted by an initial rejection in Cyprus of a claim by a gay Iranian asylum seeker, a rejection which was later overturned and the claim granted.

The Commission has confirmed that there is “an obligation on Member States to grant refugee status to persons who…. are found to have a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of membership of a particular social group, including a group based on a common characteristic of sexual orientation.”

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