Africans battling widespread homophobia in their own countries can now seek safety in Europe, after the European Union’s top court ruled that refugees facing imprisonment at home because they are gay may have sufficient grounds to be granted asylum in the 28-nation bloc.
The European court ruled on three cases of nationals from Sierra Leone, Uganda and Senegal seeking asylum in the Netherlands. The case was brought by the Dutch Supreme Court seeking clarification on the application of relevant EU laws.
The existence of laws imprisoning homosexuals “may constitute an act of persecution per se” if they are routinely enforced, the European Court of Justice said, according to a report by the Associated Press. There many stringent anti-gay laws in most African nations and lawmakers are working to create more in countries like Uganda.
A homosexual cannot be expected to conceal his sexual orientation in his home country to avoid persecution, since it would amount to renouncing a “characteristic fundamental to a person’s identity,” the court added.
International treaties say people must prove they have a “well-founded fear” of persecution for reasons of race, religion, ethnicity or political opinion if they are to obtain asylum.
The court said it will be up to Europe’s national authorities to determine whether the situation in an applicant’s home country amounts to persecution, especially whether homosexuals are indeed sentenced to prison terms there.
The Supreme Court said it will now proceed with the asylum cases and others brought on the same grounds since the cases were sent to Luxembourg in April 2012.