A Russian woman has been detained and is due to be sent back to her home country, despite pleading that her life is in danger there.
The bisexual activist, Irina Putilova, left St Petersburg half a year ago as she said she feared for her safety.
The 28-year-old was involved with a number of equality and anti-authoritarian movements in Russia, said she had been followed, threatened, arrested and beaten up by police there for taking part in the activist movements.
Ms Putilova had been living in Hackney, London, where she raised awareness of issues around LGBT rights in Russia, and noted recently introduced legislation which makes the promotion of homosexuality to minors illegal, and has been widely condemned by international governments.
“It is very difficult to be LGBTQ there because of this law. I don’t feel safe, free or comfortable to be myself. Because of this, and the rest of my activism, I think my life could be in danger,” she told The Independent from Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, where she is being detained as part of a tougher fast-track asylum process.
“The law means all public activity is very limited: you can’t even go and watch a LGBTQ movie. People who are against [gay rights] are spreading a lot of anti-LGBTQ propaganda and it’s impossible to be public [with your partner]. Two girls were arrested for hugging earlier this year. It’s crazy. It’s totally impossible for me and I don’t feel safe.”
Saying that she feared for her safety from Russian police and right-wing groups, she said she could not return to her home country where police have threatened to break her legs, and put her on a federal warrant list, meaning she is likely to be arrested if she returns.
A petition of over 5,665 supporters, including Stephen Fry, calls on Home Secretary Theresa May, to release Ms Putilova from detiention.
Mr Fry tweeted this morning: “I’ve just signed this important petition for Irina Putilova, Russian LGBTQ activist in detention in UK #iramuststay”.
Milla Walker, the solicitor acting on behalf of Ms Putilova said: “On the face of it, this case seems inappropriate for the fast-track. That is only suitable if the Home Office can reach a fair and quick decision and if the case is straightforward and simple, with no documents needed to be produced, translated, and no corroborative evidence required. This case is very complex; there are lots of documents – some of which still haven’t arrived – and they are in Russian. If the Home Office doesn’t remove the case from the fast-track, we are considering appealing to the High Court.”
Human rights activist Peter Tatchell said: ‘It is outrageous that Irina, or any refugee, is put into fast-track and detained in prison-like conditions. She is not being given enough time to prepare a proper asylum claim. Given that she has already been subjected to sustained harassment and threats, it is unsafe for Irina to return to Russia.”
Ms Putilova continued: “I want them to release me, to give me a chance, and let me undergo the normal procedure of asylum.”