European Union to give refugee status to persecuted gays

Juergen Baetz, AP wrter

Refugees facing imprisonment in their home country because they are gay may have sufficient grounds to be granted asylum in the European Union, the 28-nation bloc’s top court ruled yesterday.

The existence of laws imprisoning 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 it would amount to renouncing a “characteristic fundamental to a person’s identity,” the court added.

International treaties say people must prove they have a “well-founded fear” of persecution for reasons of race, religion, ethnicity or political opinion if they are to obtain asylum.

The court said it will be up to Europe’s national authorities to determine whether the situation in an applicant’s home country amounts to persecution, especially whether homosexuals are indeed sentenced to prison terms there.

Some nations have laws against homosexuality but rarely enforce them.

The European court ruled on three cases of nationals from Sierra Leone, Uganda and Senegal seeking asylum in the Netherlands. The case was brought by the Dutch Supreme Court seeking clarification on the application of relevant EU laws.

The Supreme Court said it will now proceed with the asylum cases and others brought on the same grounds since the cases were sent to Luxembourg in April 2012.

However, it still remains unclear how national asylum authorities should check a person’s claim of being homosexual.

The Dutch Supreme Court in March also referred that problem to the judges, asking what the limits are for the “method of assessing the credibility of a declared sexual orientation” under EU laws. But the European Court of Justice isn’t expected to rule on that issue before next year.