Immigration minister Rita Verdonk has agreed that homosexual Iranians should be given a residency permit to stay in the Netherlands because of the risk to their safety in their home country.
In March, the minister had announced plans to deport gay Iranians, saying they were not at risk if they kept their sexual orientation secret. The decision caused outrage among MPs and gay groups.
Now, following the publication of a report by Human Rights Watch, the minister says that homosexuals in Iran do form a ‘vulnerable group’ and face increased risks. If they can prove they are Iranian and gay, they will be given a residency permit. It is not clear how many people are affected by the ruling. Nevertheless, the minister stresses, it should not be concluded that all homosexuals from countries where homosexuality is a crime are necessarily refugees. ‘The asylum seeker must show that he personally has good grounds to believe he is at risk,’ according to the justice ministry press release.
The minister has also agreed temporarily not to deport Iranian Christians back to their home country, pending more information about the risks they run. That decision will be reviewed next March.
Gay groups have welcomed the minister’s decision. ‘Verdonk has set an example to the rest of the world,’ Frank van Dalen, chairman of gay lobby group COC told news agency ANP.
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