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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Gay Iraqi could face death penalty if deportation goes ahead.

Asylum seeker would become seventh gay Iraqi to be returned from the UK to country where homosexuality is punishable by death

A gay Iraqi man due for deportation tomorrow has been told by the UK Border Agency to conduct his relationships "in private" on his return to Iraq, where homosexuality is punishable by death.

Campaign group Iraqi LGBT says the asylum seeker will become the seventh gay Iraqi to be returned to the country by the UK, despite the country being one of only nine in the world where homosexual people are executed.

Though a ruling was made in September 2007 allowing two gay Iraqis to remain in the UK, campaigners working on behalf of the man facing deportation tomorrow say his case was held too long ago to benefit from the change in case law achieved in 2007.

Keith Best, the director of the Immigration Advisory Service, told the Guardian that the government ought to give the asylum seeker a fresh hearing.

The United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) has said that the man's homosexuality did not form the basis of his original asylum application in 2001 and that his subsequent conviction for seeking to stay in the country illegally makes him an untrustworthy defendant, undermining his claim to be gay.

Sarah Teather, the Liberal Democrats' housing spokeswoman, who is the Iraqi's MP, is perplexed by a recommendation from the UKBA that the Iraqi conduct his relationships in private.

The document says: "Even if your client's homosexuality were to be established it is viewed that it would be possible for your client to conduct such relationships in private on his return to Iraq. This would allow your client to express his sexuality, albeit in a more limited way than he could do elsewhere."

Teather, the MP for Brent East, said: "Immigration ministers need to show some humanity. If this deportation goes ahead there is a terrible risk that this man will be killed. How can we possibly claim to be a country that values human rights if we are willing to endanger a life in this way?"

Best said: "This is an incredible position. They [the UKBA] cannot say that on the one hand they do not believe him to be homosexual and then recommend ways in which he can cover up his homosexuality."

In September 2007 two gay victims of attempted assassination attempts by Shia Islamist death squads in Iraq were granted asylum in the UK after having their initial applications turned down by the Home Office despite compelling evidence of homophobic persecution.

That case overturned the claim that national governments did not recognise homophobic persecution as a legitimate ground for asylum under the 1951 refugee convention.

Homosexuality has been punishable by death in Iraq since 2001, when Saddam Hussein's government amended the country's penal code. The move was thought to be an overture to the country's Islamic conservatives, whose support Saddam latterly tried to win.

Iraqi LGBT says that more than 430 gay men have been murdered in Iraq since 2003. Safe houses are reported to operate in Baghdad in which some 40 young gay men hide.

The asylum seeker is scheduled to leave the UK tomorrow on an 8.30am flight but this may be delayed since the government has yet to reply to the representations made on his behalf and he cannot be deported until that point.