Lin Homer, chief executive of the Borders and Immigration Agency (BIA), has caused a furore amongst human rights groups after commenting on gay asylum seekers.
Ms Homer said at a conference organised by the Scottish Refugee Council in Glasgow that judges 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 told The Scotsman that bans or conservative views on homosexuality in asylum seekers’ home countries are not reason enough to allow them to stay in Britain. She said:
“What the court takes into account is the practical consequences for the individuals concerned.
“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.
Nico Juetten, policy manager of LGBT Youth Scotland, claimed that this was not necessarily true. He told The Scotsman:
“Lin Homer was talking about country of origin information.
“It’s good to have transparent information, but sometimes that information is wanting. It may be that homosexuality, for example, is tolerated in one part of the country, but not in another.
“The problem also is judges often say something along the lines of ‘you’ll probably be fine as long as you keep a low profile.’
“But if someone has fled the country because of their homosexuality, they are going to be closely monitored when they are returned.”
At the Scottish Refugee Council Conference, Ms Homer claimed that BIA has greatly reduced the time it takes to process asylum seekers claims, and that the agency now aims to finalise 60% of asylum claims within six months by 2009.