Minister's change of heart: gay asylum seekers will not be sent back to Iran

18 October 2006

Minister's change of heart: gay asylum seekers will not be sent back to Iran

Minister for Immigration and Integration Rita Verdonk has informed parliament that homosexual asylum seekers from Iran will henceforth qualify for residency permits. This represents a reversal of her previous policy, a change which resulted from pressure from the SP and others to put an end to the expulsions.

An investigation by Human Rights Watch (HRW) revealed that gays in Iran are systematically persecuted and that they run a very great risk of suffering torture and execution. As recently as last March, Ms Verdonk remained of the opinion that homosexuals might safely return to Iran provided they did not express their sexual identity too openly. In parliament, however, a majority which included the SP was in complete disagreement with this judgement and put pressure on the minister to suspend expulsions in order that further investigation of the situation might be carried out. Now that such an investigation has been done, Verdonk has accepted its findings and adapted her policy accordingly. From now on Iranian homosexuals will be treated as a special risk group and individuals will no longer be required to prove that they have been or are likely to be persecuted on the basis of their sexuality.

Jan de WitSP Member of Parliament and home affairs spokesman Jan de Wit expressed his satisfaction with Ms Verdonk's change of policy. “To me it is absolutely clear that Iran is not a safe country for gays,” he said. “That the minister hesitated for so long before taking this decision I find difficult to understand, but I am very happy with her eventual ruling.”

In addition to homosexuals, Christian converts have been given provisional leave to remain, Verdonk having specified that they must not be expelled before May, 2007. Reacting to this suspension, Mr De Wit said that “a moratorium of this kind is certainly better than nothing, but I would much rather have seen Ms Verdonk reach the same conclusion in relation to this group as she did for gays. Christian converts are also at grave risk in Iran.”

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