The Shadow Immigration Minister has responded to claims that the UK Border Agency is still deporting gay and lesbian asylum seekers, more than 18 months after the Supreme Court ruled it to be illegal.
Speaking to Gaydar Radio, Chris Bryant, who took over the shadow immigration brief following last month’s reshuffle of Labour’s front bench said: “Being gay or lesbian should not give someone a free pass when it comes to asylum or immigration but we should have a fair and humane policy of not sending people back to certain death or persecution”.
Mr Bryant’s comments have been echoed by Mike Hancock, the Liberal Democrat MP for Portsmouth who has been fighting to prevent a gay man in his constituency from being deported back to Uganda.
The country has gained notoriety around the world for trying to pass a notorious ‘kill the gays’ law.
Mr Hancock has accused UKBA staff of victimising asylum seeker Robert Segwany and said that “most reasonable people” would take the view that he should not be sent back to Uganda. Mr Hancock fears that Mr Segwany risks “imprisonment” and even “death” there.
The former Defence Select Committee member also said: “Robert’s case is sadly like many; I am dealing with another gay man who the authorities want to send back to Iran”.
Human rights organisations have repeatedly criticised Iran for executing citizens accused of homosexual acts.
Not surprisingly, Mr Hancock is highly critical of Home Secretary Theresa May, who is responsible for the UK Border Authority: “[The Home Office] say one thing but do another. She’s in charge of a department which has completely mishandled not only this case, but several”.
In a statement, Immigration Minister Damien Green said, the government had already changed its guidance to ensure individuals, who have demonstrated a “proven risk of persecution on grounds of sexual orientation” are not removed.
Executive Director of the UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group Erin Power also defended the Home Office: “Although there is still a lot of criticism of UKBA, lots have improved [...] Certainly from the top, the impetus is: they want to get it right”.
She went on to say: “You can’t have a choice about asylum. [The UK] signed the refugee convention, we agreed we would protect people who are persecuted; the government cannot [refuse] someone who is genuine”.