UK Supreme Court rules in favour of gay asylum seekers

Posted Jul 7, 2010 by Andrew John
The UK’s Supreme Court has ruled unanimously in favour of two gay men who faced persecution in their home countries of Iran and Cameroon.
BBC screen shot of the Cameroon asylum seeker talking to a reporter
BBC screen shot of the Cameroon asylum seeker talking to a reporter
BBC screen shot
Before today’s judgment, the men had been refused asylum and told they should behave discreetly and hide their sexuality. Their situation could then have been regarded as “reasonably tolerable,” according to the BBC.
But the five Supreme Court judges rejected that stance, and agreed that the unnamed men’s cases should be reheard. The court will now pass on detailed guidance to the lower courts about how such cases should be treated in the future.
The judgment was read out by Lord Hope, who 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.”
The Cameroon asylum seeker said he had been attacked by a mob after he’d been seen kissing his partner.
“He has been fighting removal from the UK for the past four years,” says the BBC, which then quotes the man as saying: “Some people stopped me and said: ‘We know you are a gay man.’ I cannot go back and hide who I am or lie about my sexuality.”
The Iranian, now aged 31, was attacked and expelled from school when it was discovered that he was gay. He could face public flogging or execution Iran. In Cameroon, a gay man could face six months to five years in jail.
The UK’s Home Secretary, Theresa May, said after the judgment: “We have already promised to stop the removal of asylum seekers who have had to leave particular countries because their sexual orientation or gender identification puts them at proven risk of imprisonment, torture or execution.
Case-by-case basis
“From today, asylum decisions will be considered under the new rules and the judgment gives an immediate legal basis for us to reframe our guidance for assessing claims based on sexuality, taking into account relevant country guidance and the merits of each individual case.
“We will of course take any decisions on a case-by-case basis,” she added.
May’s department, the Home Office, had contested the case under the previous Labour government, and said it had taken the men’s sexuality into account.
The ruling has been welcomed by the gay-rights lobby group Stonewall, whose chief executive, Ben Summerskill, said: “Stonewall welcomes this important ruling. Demanding that lesbian or gay people return home to conceal their sexuality bears no resemblance to the reality of gay life in many countries.
“We’re delighted that the government is responding to what we asked of all the political parties in the run-up to the [May 2010] election. Our report No Going Back shows that UK Border Agency staff urgently need better guidance and support to deal with cases involving gay asylum seekers. We look forward to working with UKBA and ministers on these issues.”