Simon Hughes: No gay person should be sent back to Iran

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The Independent Online

The Home Office will confirm that more inquiries are sent about immigration and asylum from my office than from any other MP. Every case is important but some people cause particular concern and Mehdi Kazemi has, from December 2006, been one of them.

This young Iranian lived in Rotherhithe with his family when he first came to the UK and he and his family have kept in touch with me ever since. Originally, they came because the Home Office was to deport Mehdi back to Iran on Boxing Day 2006. I contacted the Home Office to ask for action to be held off until I had reviewed Mehdi's case and the Home Office cancelled the deportation. Mehdi then left the UK because he was scared he would be returned to Iran.

For the past year, this young man has been in Germany and the Netherlands. We have been in contact by email and have continued to meet with his family. The Dublin Convention makes clear that, as Britain was the country where Mehdi arrived first, his case must be dealt with here. Over recent weeks I have been preparing for Mehdi's return and my staff team and I have been in touch with specialist lawyers to make sure he has the best possible legal advice.

My strong view is that, in the present political climate, no person who is lesbian or gay should be sent back to Iran. The Home Office must review its decision to refuse Mehdi asylum – even more so in the light of international campaigns and the press attention his case has received over the past year. This young man's case exposes the cruelty of the regime and the need for Britain, with the rest of the EU, to have consistent and humane policies to prevent people being sent home to be tortured – or worse.

The Home Office claims that a gay person can return to Iran and avoid persecution by being "discreet". All the advice is that in Iran, to be discreet means that you would have to deny your identity. The punishment for giving in to personal feelings might well be nothing less than torture or death. This is clearly a form of discrimination and a serious breach of his human rights. It must now be clear to the Home Office that it is wrong to send back gay and lesbian people to Iran (or any other country with similar laws and practice) where all the evidence shows they will be persecuted.

Mehdi and everybody in the same position needs to know that the EU countries will support them effectively when they turn to us for help.

Simon Hughes is the president of the Liberal Democrats and the party's shadow Leader of the House of Commons

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