Labour reneges on gay asylum pledge

Harriet Harman fails to intervene to stop Babi Badalov's deportation.

"New complaint procedure is worthless," says Tatchell

London - 22 September 2008

"Government ministers Harriet Harman and Barbara Follett have reneged on their undertaking to intervene in cases where LGBT asylum seekers are being unfairly treated by the Home Office," said Peter Tatchell of the LGBTI human rights group OutRage!

"The deportation of Babi Badalov shows that the complaints mechanism is worthless," he said.

Mr Tatchell was commenting on the ministers' failure to respond to his requests to halt the deportation on Saturday 20 September of gay asylum claimant Babi Badalov, who fled homophobic persecution in Azerbaijan.

"Deporting Mr Badalov back to Azerbaijan was heartless and reckless. His life is now in danger," added Mr Tatchell.

"Babi was deported, despite being in the process of filing a new asylum claim with fresh evidence. This new evidence includes threats to kill him by one of his brothers, on the grounds that he had bought shame to his family by being gay. There are also new witness statements detailing Babi's history of homophobic persecution in Azerbaijan.

"The Azerbaijani police are unable to protect him.

"In these circumstances, his removal should have been put on hold until he had an opportunity to put forward his new evidence to an asylum tribunal," said Mr Tatchell.

In a letter today to ministers Harman and Follett, Mr Tatchell writes:

At my meeting with you in the Cabinet Office on 3 September, you agreed to establish a mechanism whereby I could report abuses and you would take action to put them right. But you have not fulfilled this pledge.

"I sent your office an email about the asylum claim of Babi Badalov on 18 September, requesting that you make representations to the Border Agency and Home Secretary to defer his deportation pending an asylum tribunal hearing to consider Babi's fresh claim based on new evidence.

"I made the case in my email, and by phone, to your staff; urging that the Home Office should not pre-judge that Babi's fresh evidence was flawed. I requested the Home Office to use its discretionary powers to give him a new asylum hearing where he could have his fresh evidence properly scrutinised and assessed by an adjudicator. To remove Babi without such a hearing would, I argued, be a denial of natural justice - and a violation of the principles of fairness which the Border Agency claims it upholds.

"I specifically requested by email and phone that you intervene to halt to Babi's removal.

"From what I was told late on Friday 19 September by Hannah Gregory, Camelia Thomas and Maggie McNally, you declined to make any representations to the relevant government ministers - Jacqui Smith and Liam Byrne - even though they were easily accessible to you at the Labour Party conference.

"I do not know or understand why you apparently ignored my request and sat on your hands, but it looks like a betrayal of the trust and commitment that I thought we had established at our meeting on 3 September.

"I came to that meeting willing to put the government's past failings on LGBT asylum issues to one side. I wanted to work with you to get things right.

"Now, at the first hurdle, those hopes are in ruins.

"Perhaps you could suggest how we might put the hopeful conclusions of our 3 September meeting back on track?

"I am still willing to engage and seek solutions, which must in future include some fail-proof mechanism for halting the unfair treatment of genuine LGBT refugees," concludes Mr Tatchell's letter.

This is Peter Tatchell's 18 September email to the Cabinet Office, requesting the assistance of Harriet Harman and Barbara Follet, to get Babi's deportation suspended:

The Cabinet Office
Women and Equality Minister, Harriet Harman MP

18 September 2008

Hi Andrew Tsolaki, Hannah Gregory and Maggie McNally,

URGENT ACTION - Babi Badalov - due for deportation this Saturday

When I recently met Harriet Harman, she and Barbara Follett said they
would examine and assist the correction of any unfair treatment of
LGBT asylum applicants.

Well, here is such a case and I need your help.

Babi Badalov, a gay asylum claimant from Azerbaijan, is due for
deportation this Saturday 20 September at around 8pm on Azerbaijan
Airlines flight J20008 from Heathrow. He is currently detained at
Campsfield Immigration Removal Centre.

He is scheduled for deportation despite him being in the process of
filing a new asylum claim with fresh evidence. This new evidence
includes one of his brothers threatening to kill him on grounds that
he had shamed the family by being gay. There are also new witness
statements detailing Babi's history of violent, homophobic persecution
in Azerbaijan.

In these circumstances, his removal should be put on hold until he has
an opportunity to put forward this new evidence to an asylum tribunal.
I hope you agree.

Babi is an internationally-renowned poet and artist.

I would urge Harriet and Barbara to make immediate representations to
the Home Secretary or Border Agency Minister to halt Mr Badalov's
deportation, pending consideration of his fresh claim based on new
evidence.

Can you please liaise between yourselves and confirm to me that this
will be done?

Can you also advise me when Mr Badalov's removal has been halted and
how long he will be granted to prepare a new claim?

My sincere appreciation.

Please phone me if you wish to discuss this case.

Many thanks, Peter Tatchell

--

Copy of today's Pink News story about Babi's case

Pink News
Welsh AM joins protest against deportation of gay asylum seeker
By Tony Grew . September 18, 2008 - 17:45

A member of the Welsh Assembly has given her support to Azerbaijani
artist and gay asylum seeker Babi Badalov.

It emerged today that he will be deported on Saturday evening on
Azerbaijan Airlines flight J20008 from Heathrow.

He was detained on Tuesday at his weekly sign-in at the UK Border
Agency Offices in Cardiff.

Supporters picketed the office yesterday, and were joined by Leanne Wood AM.

"We must support asylum seekers such as Babi, and there is an
obligation on the Westminster government to defend those people who
face persecution in their respective countries," said Ms Jenkins, the
Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales Central since 2003.

"Wales has welcomed Babi with open arms, and it is deeply frustrating
that the National Assembly for Wales does not have the powers to
overturn decisions to deport asylum seekers who are clearly in
danger."

Supporters are seeking to delay any deportation while new evidence is
presented concerning Mr Badalov's psychological wellbeing and the
threats that have been made to him.
He is currently being held in a police station.

Today campaigners for his release called on people to contact
Azerbaijan Airlines and "register your disapproval at their
willingness to deport Babi. Point out how it will harm their business
to do so."

Babakhan Badalov (Babi) arrived in the UK in 2006 claiming he was
repressed and persecuted in his home country.

His appeal against the refusal of asylum was rejected at the end of
July and has been in the process of filing a fresh claim with new
evidence of the danger he would face back in Azerbaijan.

"Alarming new witness statements detailing Babi's history of violent
persecution have also recently came to light, which would allow him to
make a very strong fresh claim for asylum," said the campaign group No
Borders Wales.

Azerbaijan legalised homosexuality in 2000.

However, the Muslim country is still a very conservative society and
homosexuality remains an extremely taboo subject.

The 49 year-old internationally-renowned poet and artist said his work
got him into trouble with the law.

He was often critical of the government and members of the regime.

He claims his sexual orientation also caused him both physical and
mental grief and he endured years of bullying.

Mr Badalov's family's denial of his sexual orientation even led to one
of his brothers threatening to kill him as he had shamed the family.

After fleeing to the UK, he was detained in four different detention
centres for thirty-two days before being moved to Cardiff.

Omar Kuddus, a gay asylum activist, has asked Home Secretary Jacqui
Smith to intervene in his case.

"If Babi was from a religious minority and being persecuted he would
give asylum straight away," he said.

"Please Ms Smith, you have proved before that you are capable of
compassion and that the world has shown its disgust and made its
feelings clear when you tried to deport Mehdi Kazemi back to Iran.

"Do the right thing again, and put the Great back into Britain, before
the world shows its condemnation and protest at your actions."

Babi to be Deported on Saturday

From: No Borders Wales

Babi was moved from Rumney Police station to Campsfield Immigration
Removal Centre at 4am this morning (Thursday) from where some of
Babi's friends have been talking to him on the phone and receiving
texts from him.

Babi has been able to find fellow prisoner and No Borders supporter
Jean Pierre Gueutchue, who is also in Campsfield and has been able to
offer some advice on coping with life in a detention prison, as well
as some much-needed solidarity and friendship.

Babi was able to text us his removal directions:

"J28 8pm 20th September My deportation flight to Hellbaijan, Pliz all
stop me here"
he is very distressed, and fears the worst
"PlizPLIZpliz i wontWONTwont GO back. i WANT die HERE THAN AZERBAIJAN.
HELL O FAKING 21st Century! Can I stay in UK? Can I live 5 year happy
here? FAK THE LAW MAKER! humanity"

It seems that the proposed deportation of Babi will take place on Azerbaijan Airlines flight J20008 at 8pm on Saturday 20th September from Heathrow.

http://www.petertatchell.net/asylum/labourrenegesongayasylumpledge.htm
Published: 22/09/2008