LONDON – The British government is reconsidering its decision to deny asylum to a gay Iranian teenager who claims his life would be at risk in his homeland.
The fate of 19-year-old Mehdi Kazemi was put in Britain's hands after he was refused asylum in the Netherlands.
Kazemi, 19, says he traveled to London to study English in 2005 and applied for asylum in Britain after learning that his lover in Iran had been executed for sodomy. According to legal papers filed on Kazemi's behalf, he had been identified by his lover under interrogation.
After British authorities rejected Kazemi's application late last year, he fled to mainland Europe and applied for asylum in the Netherlands. Kazemi is still in the Netherlands and no date has yet been announced for his return to Britain.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced the review of his case on Thursday.
"Following representations made on behalf of Mehdi Kazemi, and in the light of new circumstances since the original decision was made, I have decided that Mr. Kazemi's case should be reconsidered on his return to the U.K. from the Netherlands."
On Tuesday, the Netherlands' highest court rejected Kazemi's application for asylum. The court, the Council of State, said his case was the responsibility of Britain, where he first applied for asylum.
The Dutch government cited the European Union's 2003 Dublin Regulation, which says the member state where an asylum seeker first enters the EU is responsible for processing that person's claim.
The issue arose Tuesday in Britain's House of Lords, where Lord Alli cited three reasons he should be granted asylum.
"First, homosexuality is illegal in Iran and punishable by death. Secondly, this young man's partner was hanged at an early age simply for being gay. Thirdly, the Home Office's position is that gay people can return to Iran safely, provided that they are discreet. Heaven knows what that means," Alli said.
Lord Bassam, speaking for the Home Office, said the government did not deport people when it was unsafe to do so.
"I would argue that we are extremely cautious in how we operate returns and that that approach has proven to be very effective in the past," Bassam said.