LONDON – Britain’s Supreme Court Wednesday overturned rules which allowed authorities to deport homosexual and lesbian asylum seekers to their home countries with the recommendation that they would not suffer persecution if they “concealed” their sexual orientation.
The Supreme Court ruled that the practice of advising the individuals concerned to keep their sexuality secret was contrary to the Convention on the Status of Refugees.
The case was brought by two homosexual men, one from Cameroon and one from Iran, who challenged the Appeal Court decision on the grounds that they would not be safe ifthey were returned home.
Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May welcomed Wednesday’s unanimous ruling, which she said “vindicates the position of the coalition government”.
“I do not believe it is acceptable to send people home and expect them to hide their sexuality to avoid persecution,” she said, adding that the new government had already promised to review the controversial policy.
With immediate effect, asylum decisions would be considered under the new rules. The judgement provided a legal basis for reframing the guidance for assessing claims based on sexuality, while taking into the merits of each individual case, said May.
One of the men involved, known only as T, appealed against a decision that he should return to his native Cameroon, despite having been attacked by a mob after he was seen kissing a male partner.
The other, an Iranian known as J, was told he could be expected to tolerate conditions arising from his homosexual relationship in his home country, and should behave discreetly to avoid reprisals.
The Convention stipulates that members of a particular social group, which can include groups with a common sexual orientation, are entitled to asylum in states that are parties to the Convention.
Earlier this week, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees expressed concern about the so-called “discretion test” in Britain, saying the procedure turned the International Convention on Refugees “on its head”.