It is high time that the Home Office defined its policies for dealing with LGBT asylum seekers. Shame that it still refuses to do so.
Iran is no place to be gay. Nor is it the best place for Westerners to campaign for the rights of sexual minorities.
Even according to the most conservative of estimates, no fewer than 4000 people may have been executed in Iran for the ‘crime of homosexuality’ since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
And under the current regime, hell bent on exerting its self-appointed moral authority on its population, things are not going to get any better.
Pegah Emambakhsh knew this when she escaped Iran in 2005. In her case though, things had already gotten out of control.
Her partner had been arrested, tortured, and if some reports are to be believed, sentenced to death by stoning.
As soon as Ms. Emambakhsh fled Iran, her father was captured by the Iranian authorities, and was in turn subject to the brutal interrogation methods used reserved for criminal suspects.
Although he has since been released, it is almost certain that if Ms. Emambakhsh should return to Iran, she would face the death penalty.
One would imagine that Britain, which under the current Labour government prides itself on its gay rights record, would be sympathetic.
Naturally, Ms. Emambakhsh claimed asylum in the UK soon after she arrived, which, much to the surprise of many, the British Immigration Authority promptly rejected.
With the support of many gay rights organisations, Ms. Emambakhsh has appealed again, but so far without success. She was arrested in Sheffield last month, and taken to the government detention centre in Yarlswood.
Since then, her fate at the hands of the BIA has proved uncertain, with both optimistic and pessimistic reports often reaching the gay press, the latter though predominant.
In an admirable move, Italy, more known for its Catholicism than for its rather decent record on gay rights, declared that it would grant asylum to Ms. Emambakhsh.
To add further to the embarrassment of the BIA, the President of the EU Parliament, Hans Gert Pöettering, wrote a letter to the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, asking him to take a personal look at Ms. Emambakhsh’s case, and make sure that she is not deported to Iran.
Given the mute response of the government so far, it looks like Mr. Pöettering’s words may have fallen on deaf ears.
Ironically, an issue that made it to the front page of Italian national newspapers, and to the home pages of many a human rights website, has scarcely been reported by the “feral beasts” of the British press.
A search through the reliable archives of the BBC news website failed to turn up even a single story.
Even the so-called left leaning newspapers failed to see the significance of this case-one that highlights the painful absence in Britain of any clear policies on how to deal with gay and lesbian asylum seekers who face fierce, and often fatal, discrimination back home.
Although this absence is not unique to Britain (most countries where immigration is a sensitive issue might act in a similar and arguably disgraceful manner), not all countries have turned a blind eye.
Germany and Holland, for example, have clearly outlawed the deportation of gay and lesbian people back to Iran.
And some Members of the European Parliament have signalled their wish that this policy be extended to all the member nations of the EU, although this seems certainly impossible.
It is not difficult to see why Britain is hesitant, although it is far more difficult to reason the muteness of the British media (shame on them).
Thanks partly to the Daily Mail, and a government composed of politicians who fear being reprimanded by it and have no qualms pandering to its headlines, the wider public, according to recent polls, genuinely seem to construe immigration as an urgent issue that needs correction.
That however can be no excuse for inaction. How can a country which has abolished the death penalty and which has introduced civil-partnerships and anti-discrimination bills for sexual minorities ever deport a lesbian back to a country where she will be stoned to death for her sexuality? Does this make sense?
Even if immigration were such a big threat to Britain, there is no reason why the BIA cannot grant asylum to gay and lesbian people who will genuinely face persecution back home, and every reason to introduce legislation similar to Germany and the Netherlands.
It is the moral responsibility of every tolerant developed nation to grant asylum seekers the right to residence, if indeed they face genuinely brutal persecution back home, regardless of the immigration woes of the host.
Most importantly, behind all politics, there is always a worthwhile life that needs to be saved. It is high time that the Western governments come to terms with that. Shame on Britain, and yes, on Mr. Brown, for failing to realise this.
To sign the petition that urges Britain to stop the deportation of Ms. Emambakhsh, visit: http://www.petitiononline.com/pegah/petition.html
To sign a new petition that calls for the UN to recognise sexual orientation as a human right, visit: http://www.petitiononline.com/br2007/petition.html