European Court: Threat of Imprisonment for Gay Refugees Grounds for Asylum

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Nov. 7 2013 9:15 PM

European Court: Threat of Imprisonment for Gay Refugees Grounds for Asylum

173498155
Gay campaigners rally outside the Houses of Parliament in London.

Photo by ANDREW COWIE/AFP/Getty Images

The European Union’s highest court ruled on Thursday that refugees who are gay and face imprisonment in their home countries for their sexual orientation may have a case for being granted asylum. The European Court of Justice’s judgment, the Wall Street Journal reports, was “triggered by a request from the Dutch ministry of immigration for guidance on how to deal with the applications of three asylum seekers from Senegal, Sierra Leone and Uganda, where homosexuality carries heavy fines and prison sentences.”

Some EU countries, including the Netherlands, already accept sexual orientation as grounds for granting asylum, but, the Associated Press reports, “the European Court of Justice's ruling clarifies that policy and makes it binding for all 28 EU nations.” The court said that criminalization of homosexuality, however, was insufficient to justify asylum status. To meet the standard for asylum, the court ruled there had to be evidence of cases of routine imprisonment. It also stated, however, that “a homosexual cannot be expected to conceal his sexual orientation in his home country to avoid persecution since that would amount to renouncing a ‘characteristic fundamental to a person's identity,’” according to the AP.

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.