An asylum seeker from Iraq is to be returned to his homeland this week.

The United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) said the man, who claims he will be in danger because he is gay, cannot be trusted as a reliable person as he has already been prosecuted for seeking to stay in the country illegally.

His original application for asylum in 2001 did not mention his homosexuality.

Gay rights groups have condemned the decision to deport the man, and the UKBA’s assertion that he should be safe if he is “private” about his sexuality.

“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,” the agency said in a letter to the man’s lawyers.

“This would allow your client to express his sexuality, albeit in a more limited way than he could do elsewhere.”

The Immigration Advisory Service has called on the government to reconsider the case. He was due for deportation yesterday but it may have been delayed due to legal issues.

Iraqi LGBT says that more than 430 gay men have been murdered in Iraq since 2003.

In November a leading gay activist in Iraq was assassinated. 27-year-old Bashar was one of the organisers of safe houses for gay men in Baghdad and was co-ordinator of Iraqi LGBT in the city.

A UN report in 2007 highlighted attacks on gays by militants and religious courts, supervised by clerics, where homosexuals allegedly would be ‘tried,’ ‘sentenced’ to death and then executed.

“Violence against gays has intensified sharply since late 2005, when Iraq’s leading Shiite Muslim cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued a fatwa, or religious decree, which declared that gays and lesbians should be ‘killed in the worst, most severe way possible,” said Alli HIli of Iraqi LGBT.

“Since then, LGBT people have been specifically targeted by the Madhi Army, the militia of fundamentalist Shia cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, as well as by the Badr organisation and other Shia death squads.”

In 2007 two gay men from Iraq persecuted because of their sexuality were granted asylum in the UK following an appeal.

Fleeing from militia death squads Ibaa, 30, and Haider, 29, were initially refused asylum by the Home Office on the grounds that fear of persecution because of sexual orientation was not recognised by the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Sodomy was criminalised by Saddam Hussein in 2001, with penalties up to execution.

While homosexual acts are not illegal under the new government they are taboo.