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EU affirms persecution for being gay is valid asylum claim

February 10, 2009 12:48 PM

London Lib Dem MEP Sarah Ludford has welcomed news that the European Commission has affirmed persecution on grounds of sexual orientation is a legitimate justification for an asylum claim. The question had been put to the Commission by Sarah and other MEPs, prompted by an initial rejection in Cyprus of a claim by a gay Iranian asylum seeker - a rejection which was later overturned and the claim granted. Sarah, who is Liberal Democrat European justice & human rights spokeswoman, said: "I strongly welcome this robust statement by the Commission on the responsibility of Member States to uphold their international commitments to refugees and recognise persecution on all legitimate grounds including sexual orientation. Such persecution is very much a reality for gay and lesbian people from countries such as Iran."

"Iranians Mehdi Kazemi and Mr Bagherian were both eventually granted residence in the UK and Cyprus respectively but in both cases it was a struggle requiring a lot of lobbying. I hope that EU states will now heed the Commission and deal with future cases quickly and efficiently so that those who've been persecuted on the grounds of their sexuality can be spared further distress."

The Commission repeats that there is 'an obligation on Member States to grant refugee status to persons who.... are found to have a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of membership of a particular social group, including a group based on a common characteristic of sexual orientation.'