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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 8 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 45
Gays can claim asylum, European Court of Justice says
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Gays can claim asylum, European Court of Justice says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

In a November 7 ruling, the European Court of Justice ruled that LGBT refugees have grounds to seek asylum in European Union member states.

The decision was a response to a request for clarification from the Dutch government in the case of three Gay men fleeing Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Senegal.

The European Court of Justice is the highest judicial body in the EU, and all EU members are bound by its decisions. It is composed of one judge from each member state.

The Dutch Council of State had asked the court to determine whether LGBT persons constitute a "particular social group" that could be a target of persecution, and whether the threat of imprisonment actually constitutes persecution as defined in EU law.

LAWS ALONE NOT ENOUGH
The court ruled that laws specifically targeting LGBT people do, in fact, make them a separate social group. However, it is up to national authorities - in this case, the Netherlands - to determine "whether, in the applicant's country of origin, the term of imprisonment ... is applied in practice."

If Gay people are actually punished in a particular country, refugees from that country are entitled to asylum, but the mere existence of a ban on same-sex relations is not grounds in itself for approving an asylum request, the court ruled.

Under international law a "particular social group" with a well-founded fear of persecution can claim asylum if the persecution amounts to a severe violation of human rights.

Same-sex relations are illegal in most African countries, including key Western allies such as Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, and Botswana. A June report by Amnesty International said anti-Gay attacks had reached dangerous levels in sub-Saharan Africa.

The European Court of Justice ruling comes at a time of rising anti-immigrant sentiment in many European countries. In the Netherlands, for example, the anti-immigrant Party for Freedom (PW) is now the country's third-largest party. It was part of the ruling coalition until it quit the government in 2012.

The PW now advocates withdrawing from the EU, as part of a strategy to avoid taking in more refugees from Africa and Asia.

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