News / Europe

Britain's Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Gay Asylum Seekers

Britain's Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that homosexuals who cannot live an open life in their own countries without fear of persecution should be entitled to asylum in Britain.

Britain's Supreme Court ruled that two gay men have the right to asylum in Britain because they face persecution in their home country.

The men, one from Cameroon and the other from Iran, had previously been refused asylum in Britain on the grounds that they could conceal their sexuality.

Deputy President of the Supreme Court, Lord Hope of Craighead, said the Supreme Court judges had agreed unanimously to allow appeals from the men.

"To compel a homosexual person to pretend that his sexuality does not exist or to suppress the behavior by which it manifests itself is to deny him his fundamental right to be who he is," he said.

Past attempts made by the men to stay in Britain had been rejected. Previous rulings said if the men concealed their sexuality their situation could be regarded as "reasonably tolerable".

But the Supreme Court said Wednesday that tolerability test does not comply with the U.N. Refugee Convention.

"Homosexuals are as much entitled to freedom of association with others who are of the same sexual orientation as people who are straight," he said. "The court holds that the reasonable tolerability test relied on by the court of appeal is incompatible with the refugee convention and should not be followed."

Dean Atta, a London-based activist for gay rights in Africa, says the move is a major step forward.

"It means there's a bit more hope for them. They know that it's not going to be such a struggle to get the asylum, but it still obviously doesn't make the situation at home better," said Atta. "If anything, it gives them more reason to want to leave rather than stay and try and change things in their own country."

A recent report from the gay lobby group Stonewall said that between 2005 and 2009, Britain's Home Office initially refused 98 percent of all gay and lesbian asylum claims.

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