The UK government through its Border Agency has decided not to give priority to the asylum application of Iraqi LGBT leader Ali Hili, in exile in London. The application has been outstanding for nearly three years and while it is outstanding, Ali cannot travel.
This decision directly impacts not just on Ali but on harshly persecuted Iraqi lesbians and gays through the reduced ability of their sole visible leader to raise their profile internationally.
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As you may be aware, numerous human rights organisations and journalists have documented the pogrom against lesbians and gays in Iraq. Iraqi LGBT estimates that over 700 LGBT have been assassinated over the past few years. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has advised 'favourable consideration' for asylum claims because of the situation.
Hili has received many requests to speak internationally, including from the US, which he has been unable to pursue. His solicitor, Barry O'Leary, wrote to the UK Border Agency (UKBA) in August 2009 that: "he desperately wishes to do this [travel] in order to further the aims of his organisation, that is, supporting lesbians and gay men in Iraq and bringing the world's attention to their plight."
Six months later, the UKBA told O'Leary that:
* the assistance given by Hilli to the Foreign Office "does not count"
* the fatwa does not mean that Hilli "falls within the classification of clear and immediate vulnerability"
* that the delay in deciding Hilli's asylum case (since July 2007) "is not in itself an exceptional circumstance"
* his case is not "compelling"
The UK Foreign Office Human Rights Report for 2009 specifically names Iraqi LGBT over other NGOs as a key source of information. Hili has met with them numerous times. The report quotes Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell condemning persecution of LGBT in Iraq.
Foreign Office Minister Chris Bryant wrote in his blog on Feb. 24: "I know some people dismiss LGBT rights as something of a sideshow in international relations, but I am proud to say that the FCO has argued for a decade that human rights are a seamless garment."
Yet the same government through the Home Office is effectively aiding that persecution through the failure of government recognition to Iraqi LGBT's leader.