Gay Africans Closer to Winning EU Asylum

Published: November 7, 2013

      (CN) – Three gay African men afraid of persecution in their home countries can remain in the EU if the threat of reprisal is real, Europe’s highest court ruled Thursday.

     The men – known only as X, Y and Z – hail from Sierra Leone, Uganda and Senegal, respectively. They sought refugee status in the Netherlands, claiming that had a well-founded fear of persecution in their home countries because of their sexual orientation.
     In all three countries, homosexual acts are criminal offenses and carry severe punishments ranging from huge fines to life imprisonment.
     There are laws criminalizing homosexual acts in 38 African nations. Sierra Leone punishes male offenders with life imprisonment, though lesbian activity is legal. In Senegal, all same-sex activity carries a one- to five-year prison sentence and fines of up to $2,600, the equivalent of 1.5 million West African CFA francs.
     European law based on the Geneva Convention extends refugee status to individuals who fear persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. The law requires that the potential persecution be severe or repetitive enough that it constitutes a basic human rights violation.
     The Dutch Council of State asked the Court of Justice of the European Union to weigh in on whether homosexuality constitutes membership in a particular social group. It also questioned whether the threat of imprisonment qualifies as persecution warranting refugee status.
     Earlier this year, an adviser to the Luxembourg-based high court opined that homosexuals who fear persecution in their home countries do belong to a particular social group under the Geneva Convention. She also suggested that any punishment the men might face if returned home would be considered "disproportionate" by EU standards, amounting to persecution under European law.

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