Gay artists faces deportation after asylum claim is rejected

Jane Lim June 15, 2008
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An openly gay artist could face torture after his claim for asylum has was dismissed by the Home Office.

Babakhan Badalov (Babi) from Azerbaijan arrived in the UK in 2006 after being repressed and persecuted in his home country.

Azerbaijan legalised homosexuality in 2000.

However, the Muslim country is still a very conservative society and homosexuality remains an extremely taboo subject.

The 49 year-old internationally-renowned poet and artist’s work got him into trouble with the law.

He was often critical of the government and members of the regime.

He claims his sexual orientation also caused him both physical and mental grief and he endured years of bullying.

Babi’s family’s denial of his sexual orientation even led to one of his brothers threatening to kill him as he had shamed the family.

After fleeing to the UK, Babi was detained in four different detention centres for thirty-two days before being moved to Cardiff.

As a result of the beatings and bullying, Babi has only eight teeth remaining and faces a number of mental health problems such as anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal tendencies and insomnia. There is a petition and campaign website dedicated to his case.

Babi’s case, like the other high profile LGBT asylum seeker cases, highlights the problems faced by LGBT people in the asylum system.

It has been under increasing pressure and is seen as falling below the standards of a civilised nation.

A recent 12-member Independent Asylum Commission said that it failed to give sanctuary to people who genuinely need it.

Lord Ramsbotham, a former chief inspector of prisons, told the BBC:

“We are concerned at the level of the treatment of children, the treatment of women, the treatment of those with health needs, particularly mental health needs, torture survivors.

“The system is improving all the time, and we commend the strenuous efforts by Border and Immigration Agency to deal with these claims more effectively.”

The volume of people seeking asylum in the UK has fallen sharply and last year there were just over 23,000.

The report has shocked many MPs.

The then-Tory Shadow Home Secretary David Davis called the report a “shocking indictment of the asylum system under Labour.”

Peter Tatchell, a Green party candidate for Parliament and gay rights activist, went as far as saying that the system is filled with “homophobic and transphobic bias.”

“The government seems more interested in cutting asylum numbers than in ensuring fairness and justice for LGBT refugees who have fled arrest, imprisonment, torture, vigilante attacks and attempts to kill them.” he added.

The head of the Border and Immigration Agency, Lin Homer, told the BBC:

“I totally refute any suggestion that we treat asylum applicants without care and compassion.

“We operate a firm but humane system, supporting those who are vulnerable with accommodation and assistance.

“But we expect those that a court says have no genuine need for asylum to return home voluntarily, saving taxpayers the expense of enforcing their return.”

Recent high profile asylum cases include:

Jojo Yakob. In April, members of the Scottish Parliament called on the government not to deport the gay teenager to Syria.

Also in April, a decision to deport Mehdi Kazemi, a gay teenager from Iran claiming asylum, was resisted by more than 60 peers.

Mr Kazemi, now 20, was studying in England and applied for asylum after his boyfriend was arrested and reportedly executed in Tehran.

The boyfriend named Mehdi as a homosexual, and police turned up at his father’s house with a warrant to arrest him.

His asylum application was unsuccessful in the UK, so Mehdi fled to Holland. The Dutch authorities ruled he should be returned to the UK.

He successfully petitioned the Home Secretary to reconsider his case and has been given leave to remain.

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