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Labour Reneges on Gay Asylum Pledge — Tatchell

Harriet Harman fails to intervene to stop Babi Badalov’s deportation



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LONDON, September 22, 2008  —  Government ministers Harriet Harman and Barbara Follett have reneged on their undertaking to intervene in cases where LGBT asylum seekers are being unfairly treated by the Home Office, Peter Tatchell of Outrage! said this morning.

‘The deportation of Babi Badalov shows that the complaints mechanism is worthless," he said.

Mr Tatchell was commenting on the ministers’ failure to respond to his requests to halt the deportation on Saturday of gay asylum claimant Babi Badalov, who fled homophobic persecution in Azerbaijan.

“Deporting Mr Badalov back to Azerbaijan was heartless and reckless.  His life is now in danger,” added Mr Tatchell.

“Babi was deported, despite being in the process of filing a new asylum claim with fresh evidence.  This new evidence includes threats to kill him by one of his brothers, on the grounds that he had bought shame to his family by being gay.  There are also new witness statements detailing Babi’s history of homophobic persecution in Azerbaijan.

“The Azerbaijani police are unable to protect him,” Mr. Tatchell continued.

“In these circumstances, his removal should have been put on hold until he had an opportunity to put forward his new evidence to an asylum tribunal," said Mr Tatchell.

In a letter today to ministers Harman and Follett, Mr Tatchell writes:

‘At my meeting with you in the Cabinet Office on 3 September, you agreed to establish a mechanism whereby I could report abuses and you would take action to put them right.  But you have not fulfilled this pledge.

I sent your office an email about the asylum claim of Babi Badalov on 18 September, requesting that you make representations to the Border Agency and Home Secretary to defer his deportation pending an asylum tribunal hearing to consider Babi's fresh claim based on new evidence.

I made the case in my email, and by phone, to your staff; urging that the Home Office should not pre-judge that Babi's fresh evidence was flawed. I requested the Home Office to use its discretionary powers to give him a new asylum hearing where he could have his fresh evidence properly scrutinised and assessed by an adjudicator. To remove Babi without such a hearing would, I argued, be a denial of natural justice — and a violation of the principles of fairness which the Border Agency claims it upholds.

I specifically requested by email and phone that you intervene to halt to Babi's removal.

From what I was told late on Friday 19 September by Hannah Gregory, Camelia Thomas and Maggie McNally, you declined to make any representations to the relevant government ministers — Jacqui Smith and Liam Byrne — even though they were easily accessible to you at the Labour Party conference.

I do not know or understand why you apparently ignored my request and sat on your hands, but it looks like a betrayal of the trust and commitment that I thought we had established at our meeting on 3 September.

I came to that meeting willing to put the government's past failings on LGBT asylum issues to one side. I wanted to work with you to get things right.

Now, at the first hurdle, those hopes are in ruins.

Perhaps you could suggest how we might put the hopeful conclusions of our 3 September meeting back on track?

I am still willing to engage and seek solutions, which must in future include some fail-proof mechanism for halting the unfair treatment of genuine LGBT refugees.




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Posted: 22 September 2008 at 12:00 (UK time)


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