Refugees facing imprisonment in their home country because they are gay may have grounds to be granted asylum in the EU, the 28-nation bloc’s top court ruled yesterday.
The existence of laws allowing the imprisonment of homosexuals “may constitute an act of persecution per se,” if they are routinely enforced, the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice said.
A homosexual cannot be expected to conceal his sexual orientation in his home country to avoid persecution since that would amount to renouncing a “characteristic fundamental to a person’s identity”, the court added. It ruled on cases of three people from Sierra Leone, Uganda and Senegal seeking asylum in Holland.
Worldwide, more than 70 countries have laws that are used to criminalise people on the basis of sexual orientation, according to the International Commission of Jurists.
International treaties say people must prove they have a “well-founded fear” of persecution for reasons of race, religion, ethnicity, political opinion, or membership in a social group targeted by the authorities, if they are to obtain asylum. The court ruled that laws singling out homosexuals make them such a social group.
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