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Under Theresa May’s conservative ruling, new British governement guidelines have caused some outrage. A document dated last month about the handling of LGBT refugees explains that deported gay Afghan refugees are told to “pretend to be straight” while returning to their country. Afghanistan is a country where it is illegal to be openly gay.
The Guardian explains that this new guidance is denounced by the Home Office’s own Afghanistan unit, which expressed serious concerns.
Heather Barr, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, tells The Guardian:
The Home Office’s approach seems to be to tell asylum seekers, “Pretend you’re straight, move to Kabul and best of luck. Living a life where you are forced to lie every day about a key part of your identity, and live in constant fear of being found out and harassed, prosecuted or attacked, is exactly the kind of persecution asylum laws are supposed to prevent.”
The guidance argues that the Afghan government has not recently prosecuted anyone for homosexuality. It says that the Taliban do not currently threaten the capital. So, according to the document, a closeted gay Afghan could live safely in Kabul.
United Nations guidelines on refugees specifies that LGBT people should not be required to change or conceal their identity to avoid persecution.
Paul Twocock, director of campaigns, policy and research at Stonewall, explains to The Guardian, “These Home Office guidance notes on Afghanistan seem to directly contradict this. They openly acknowledge that LGBT people are at risk, but also state that they can escape persecution if they are careful not to attract attention by hiding who they are.”
Two organizations, Stonewall and The Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group, have recently published an alarming document, called No Safe Report, about the conditions LGBT asylum seekers face in the United Kingdom. Philip Christopher Baldwin, a campaigner and HIV awareness activist, explains to Gay Times that “LGBT refugees are experiencing horrific abuse, which many people in the LGBT community are unaware of.”