Mr Yousaf has urged Mr Hague to offer asylum

Via Kausik – the Scottish Government wants to offer asylum to Ugandans facing persecution under the country’s vile new anti-gay law. The Herald Scotland reports:

Humza Yousaf, Minister For External Affairs, has written to UK Foreign Secretary William Hague detailing the Scottish Government’s gesture to welcome “any Ugandan” persecuted by the new laws.

A day after President Museveni enacted the law a Ugandan newspaper published a list of what it called the country’s 200 top homosexuals, including some who previously had not identified themselves as gay.

In his letter Mr Yousaf has urged Mr Hague “to offer asylum to any Ugandans who feels threatened or persecuted by the legis­lation”, adding that “Scotland will play her part in providing asylum for those seeking refuge from this draconian legislation”.

He adds that during the Games “no one from any part of the Commonwealth who visits Scotland will be under any doubt about our values as a welcoming, open and tolerant society”.

Lest we get smug about all this welcoming and tolerance, the Herald reminds us of a pertinent background fact.

Some 41 nations in the 54-member Commonwealth have laws banning homosexuality, many of which date to British Empire legislation that was never repealed.

Good old Empire.

Anyway, Mr Yousaf’s move is very good, but can Scotland actually grant asylum? Regular FTB commenter Walton explains:

The Scottish government doesn’t itself have power to grant anyone asylum – immigration control is a matter which is reserved to Westminster. So this principled stand is good, but doesn’t of itself make a difference to the legal position.

In theory, the legal position is that someone who would be persecuted on return because of their sexuality is entitled to asylum under the Refugee Convention. This was confirmed by the decision of the UK’s Supreme Court in HJ (Iran) and HT (Cameroon), in which it was held that gay and bi people who would have to stay in the closet on return to their home country for fear of violence were entitled to asylum (before then, the Home Office used to reject claims on the ground that LGBT people could safely live “discreetly” in their countries of origin). 

However, what the Home Office and many immigration judges actually do, in reality, is to refuse to accept that LGBT asylum-seekers are actually telling the truth about their sexuality or gender identity. Most are disbelieved, and many are asked humiliating questions laced with homophobic stereotypes and wrong assumptions: see the Guardian and the Independent. So the great majority of LGBT asylum claims are rejected, and large numbers of LGBT asylum-seekers are in fact returned to places like Uganda, Cameroon and Iran because the Home Office will not accept that they are really LGBT (often after long periods of detention in hellhole “immigration removal centres” like Yarl’s Wood). Some, like Jackie Nanyonjo, die as a result.

So that stinks. But maybe Scotland’s offer will put enough moral pressure on Cameron’s government to make a difference.


  1. Al Dente says

    For those who don’t know him, Walton is a lawyer specializing in refugee and asylum law.

  2. medivh says

    I assume this inability will change if Scotland separates from the UK in September? One more reason to hope for Scottish independence then…

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