The Dutch government has decided to grant asylum to gay Iraqis. Immigration minister Geert Leers says Iraq is no longer safe for homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders.
Mr Leers had already announced a temporary halt to the deportation of gay Iraqis last month following an alert from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The ministry warned that it was impossible to be openly gay anywhere in Iraq without being at serious risk. The Iraqi authorities also fail to take any measures to stop discrimination or attacks on homosexuals.
Koen van Dijk of the Dutch gay rights organisation COC described the announcement as an important victory for Iraqis who had fled the country because of their sexual orientation. According to van Dijk, Iraq is the most dangerous country in the world for gay people: “Research has shown that 750 people have been murdered for this reason since 2003. There are systematic campaigns. Organised militias publicly declare that they’re hunting down people who exhibit ‘deviant’ behaviour and should be killed according to Islamic law.”
Burden of proof
Asylum-seekers will have to prove that they are homosexual before their request is granted. It is unclear just how this will be checked and, says van Dijk, it will lead to difficulties, “especially because people will have to prove something they’ve taught themselves to disguise out of fear for their entire life. It will be a very tricky situation and the immigration officials carrying out the interviews will need special training”.
The Dutch parliament had asked Mr Leers in March to carry out an enquiry into the situation of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders in Iraq, following a series of reports about the murder of gays.