Shelter in Europe: Court Orders Asylum for Persecuted Gays
An EU court ruled Thursday that gays and lesbians persecuted in other countries have the right to asylum in Europe, as long as they fulfill certain conditions. The decision came in a case involving three African men seeking safe haven in the Netherlands.
The European Union's high court in Luxembourg ruled Thursday that refugees who face prosecution in their home countries because of homosexual acts have the right to asylum in the EU.
The court overturned the Dutch decision.
Justices in Luxembourg have now ruled that gays and lesbians represent "social groups" in accordance with the Geneva Convention on refugees' rights. The court also found "it is a common ground that a person's sexual orientation is a characteristic so fundamental to his identity that he should not be forced to renounce it." The court also said that "the existence of criminal laws specifically targeting homosexuals supports a finding that those persons form a separate group which is perceived by the surrounding society as being different."
Threat of Prosecution Alone Not Grounds for Asylum
The court also held that national asylum authorities cannot expect that a refugee "should conceal his homosexuality in his country of origin or exercise restraint in expressing it" in order to avoid persecution. It argued this was "incompatible" with the "recognition of a characteristic so fundamental to a person's identity that the persons concerned cannot be required to renounce it."
The Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service had argued one could expect foreigners to exercise greater restraint in public about their homosexuality in their country of origin.
Advocate General Eleanor Sharpston had argued in court in July that the EU must provide protection for gays and lesbians facing persecution, but that the threat of prosecution for homosexual acts in their country of origin alone was not grounds for granting asylum. Instead, she argued, national authorities must review whether it is probable that an asylum-seeker would actually be persecuted as a result of his or her sexual orientation or whether the sum of "diverse measures" would violate that person's human rights.
According to the ruling, the existence of legislating criminalizing homosexual acts alone is not a sufficient violation of the rights of gays and lesbians to require the granting of asylum. It ruled that EU member states would only be required to provide asylum if imprisonment in each of the countries of origin "is actually applied."
Human rights organizations say that gays and lesbians are persecuted in many African countries. Homosexuality is explicitly banned in the laws of 38 countries, according to Amnesty International.
dsl -- with wires
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