Cameroon denies gay asylum seeker was persecuted
Cameroon’s communications minister has denied that a gay asylum seeker to the UK faced persecution in his home country.
The man, known only as HT, won a case in the Supreme Court yesterday which ruled he had the right to asylum in the UK.
He had claimed he was told by the UK Border Agency he could be sent home despite being attacked by a mob after he was seen kissing his partner.
Homosexuality is illegal in Cameroon and punishable by up to five years in jail or a fine.
However, communications minister Issa Tchiroma told the BBC’s Network Africa programme that gay people were not attacked in the country.
He said: “Homosexuality is forbidden by the law, there is not doubt. But what I can emphasise is the fact that no homosexual is persecuted in Cameroon.”
He claimed the man was using the laws against homosexuality to win asylum in Britain, saying: “Do you think he is the only gay person in Cameroon?”
The Supreme Court ruled in favour of HT and an Iranian man whose circumstances were similar.
The Iranian man, HJ, was told by a UK tribunal that he must expect persecution for his homosexuality and could avoid it by being discreet.
Lord Hope, who read out the judgment, said: “To compel a homosexual person to pretend that his sexuality does not exist or suppress the behaviour by which to manifest itself is to deny him the fundamental right to be who he is.”
The court’s judgment said that the term “concealment” was preferred to discretion, as this recognises that gay people in homophobic countries may need to be dishonest about their sexuality and that the average person would find it intolerable to have to conceal their sexuality for fear of persecution.
It added that UK authorities must consider whether asylum applicants have to conceal their sexuality at home for fear of persecution and if so, they should be given refugee status regardless of whether they can successfully keep their sexuality secret.