Airline refuses to deport gay asylum seeker from UK
A campaign of “pester power” has convinced a national airline to decline to transport a gay man who claims his life is in danger if he is returned to his homeland.
Supporters of Babakhan Badalov (Babi) said Azerbaijan Airlines had been flooded by phone calls.
Mr Badalov arrived in the UK in 2006 claiming he was repressed and persecuted in Azerbaijan.
His appeal against the refusal of asylum was rejected at the end of July and has been in the process of filing a fresh claim with new evidence of the danger he would face in his home country.
He was detained on Tuesday at his weekly sign-in at the UK Border Agency Offices in Cardiff.
The Home Office may now seek to deport Mr Badalov on another airline.
Friend and activist Hywel Bishop from No Borders South Wales said:
“We’re sceptical about Azerbaijan Airlines’ assurances they won’t be carrying out the deportation.
“Previous experiences with airlines tell us that they will say anything to fob people off and stop them telephoning.
“This was the case with Kemi Ayinde a migrant from Nigeria who was due to be deported some time ago on a Virgin Nigeria flight.
“Many supporters received emails stating Virgin Nigeria had never carried out a deportation flight before, which was just not true.
“Until we know for certain that Babi will not be on that flight we’ll keep contacting the airline to complain.
“Ideally they’ll be so inconvenienced by this protest that they’ll think twice about operating removal flights
in the future.”
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Azerbaijan legalised homosexuality in 2000.
However, the Muslim country is still a very conservative society and homosexuality remains an extremely taboo subject.
Mr Badalov, a 49 year-old internationally-renowned poet and artist, said his work got him into trouble with the law.
He says 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.
After fleeing to the UK, he was detained in four different detention centres for thirty-two days before being moved to Cardiff.