Maybe they really thought Mehdi Kazemi’s rescue would be a distraction, but the Home Office and its UK Border Agency are already back to trying to deport gay asylum seekers:
An Azerbaijani artist who is claiming asylum in the UK was detained yesterday at his weekly sign-in at the UK Border Agency Offices in Cardiff.
Babakhan Badalov (Babi), who is gay, arrived in the UK in 2006 claiming he was repressed and persecuted in his home country.
The New Labour government seems to think that if their Home Office country reports (long since shown up as inadequate) say the country has, say, legalised homosexuality (Azerbaijan did in 2000) that persecution on the grounds of sexual orientation should be impossible. Of course that’s palpably ridiculous, yet his deportation appears set for as soon as today. Can someone explain to me how an artistic man with a history of being persecuted for his sexual orientation, who is now afraid for his life because of members of his family, and whose mental health has suffered as a result, is not a suitable candidate for asylum?
Paul Canning from Gay Asylum UK points out:
Badalov has been threatened with death by ‘honour killing’ and his sexuality has already led to persecution and would definitely lead to more persecution if he is returned.
Since his detention, there has been a high profile response:
Over 50 people gathered outside the place where Babi was grabbed 24 short hours earlier, holding banners and placards. Amongst the were Leanne Wood AM, deputy leader of Cardiff Council Neil McEvoy, as well as many of Babi’s closest friends.
Those who could not make the protest sent messages of support, including Bethan Jenkins AM who said
“We must support asylum seekers such as Babi, and there is an obligation on the Westminster government to defend those people who face persecution in their respective countries. Wales has welcomed Babi with open arms, and it is deeply frustrating that the National Assembly for Wales does not have the powers to overturn decisions to deport asylum seekers who are clearly in danger.”
This has to stop – it is contrary to what the asylum system is supposed to be about. Contact your MP to tell the Home Office it has to stop (Babi’s Home Office reference number is B1234623).
Peter Tatchell has written to Harriet Harman, Equalities Minister, saying:
He (Babi) is scheduled for deportation despite him being in the process of filing a new asylum claim with fresh evidence. This new evidence includes one of his brothers threatening to kill him on grounds that he had shamed the family by being gay. There are also new witness statements detailing Babi’s history of violent, homophobic persecution in Azerbaijan.
In these circumstances, his removal should be put on hold until he has an opportunity to put forward this new evidence to an asylum tribunal.
Crucially Tatchell points out
When I recently met Harriet Harman, she and Barbara Follett MP said they would examine and assist the correction of any unfair treatment of LGBT asylum applicants.
Well they will (and should) be judged by their actions, but be under no illusion of just how geared against all applicants the asylum system now is, and of the homophobic structure which underpins it.