Human rights groups have denounced guidelines directing gay asylum seekers who are deported to Afghanistan from the UK to pretend they are heterosexual.
Issued last month, the new guidelines for Afghanistan – where homosexuality is “wholly taboo” and illegal – has been denounced by human rights groups as a violation of international law, and criticised by the Home Office’s own Afghanistan unit, reports the Guardian.
Although the guidelines point out the risks to LGBT Afghans from local laws, Taliban insurgents and their own families, they go on to argue that a closeted gay Afghan could live safely in Kabul.
The document notes:
“While space for being openly gay is limited, subject to individual factors, a practising gay man who, on return to Kabul, would not attract or seek to cause public outrage, would not face a real risk of persecution.
“In the absence of other risk factors, it may be a safe and viable option for a gay man to relocate to Kabul, though individual factors will have to be taken into account.”
The Home Office’s Afghanistan unit expressed concerns with the guidance. An attachment to the main document bluntly states “homosexuality remains wholly taboo” in the country and underlines that gay Afghans have to conceal their identity.
Heather Barr, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said:
“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, persecuted or attacked, is exactly the kind of persecution asylum laws are supposed to prevent.”
Paul Twocock, director of campaigns, policy and research at Stonewall, added that the new rules set the UK at odds with United Nations guidelines on refugees because 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.”