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Asylum Seekers: Iran

– in the House of Lords at 2:59 pm on 18th March 2008.

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Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, we recognise that there are individuals from Iran who are able to demonstrate a need for international protection, and it is only right that we provide protection to those in genuine fear of persecution. However, enforcing the return of those who have no right to remain here is a key part of upholding a robust and fair asylum system.

Photo of Lord Roberts of Llandudno Lord Roberts of Llandudno Spokesperson in the Lords, International Development, Spokesperson in the Lords, Welsh Affairs, Whip

My Lords, I am not sure whether or not I thank the Minister for that reply. I thank the 80 Members of this House who last week joined me in the appeal on behalf of the young Iranian whose deportation has been delayed. I thank the Home Secretary for her response.

When people are forcibly removed from the UK, what mechanism is there to monitor the treatment they receive in their homeland? How do we keep an eye on that? And is it not time, in spite of the Minister's Answer, that we joined other countries in having a moratorium on forced return not only to Iran but to other places where folk are persecuted, tortured and possibly even executed?

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, it is worth saying that we are not aware of any individual who has been executed in Iran in recent years solely on the grounds of homosexuality, and we do not consider that there is systematic persecution of gay men in Iran. However, we have said in our most recent operational guidance note that if a claimant can demonstrate that their homosexual acts have brought them to the attention of the authorities to the extent that they will face a real risk of punishment that will be harsh and will amount to persecution, they should be granted refugee status as a member of a particular social group. In addition, gay rights activists who have come to the attention of the authorities face a real risk of persecution, and they should be granted asylum as well.

Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

My Lords, is the Minister aware that in the past 30 years some 120,000 members of the Iranian Resistance have been executed, including women and children? Is he further aware that in this week's elections more than 1,000 reformist candidates were prevented from standing, their newspapers were closed down and they were refused permission to hold public meetings? Given those circumstances and the need to encourage democracy and change in Iran, how can the Government justify the continued decision to proscribe the Iranian Resistance, a decision that our own judges have described as, to use their word, perverse?

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, that is a bit beyond the Question being asked. On the issue of the returning of gay people to Iran, we have concerns about the treatment of gays in that country. The FCO and NGOs monitor what is happening in Iran, and we are not aware of any individual having been executed solely on the grounds of homosexuality.

Photo of Lord Corbett of Castle Vale Lord Corbett of Castle Vale Labour

My Lords, can the Minister confirm that there have been 57 critical reports in the United Nations about the repressive nature of the mullahs' regime in Iran? The abuses of human rights include the amputation of limbs without anaesthetics, the gouging out of eyes, the hanging of convicted minors from the ends of cranes in public and the death penalty for those convicted of homosexuality. Will the Minister take the opportunity to speak to any one of 200 Members of your Lordships' House who share my views on this vile regime if he needs any other evidence that it is unsafe to return asylum seekers to that regime?

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, I return to what I said: we are not aware of any individual having been executed solely on the grounds of homosexuality in Iran, and we are not aware of any that we have returned having been executed.

Photo of Baroness Warsi Baroness Warsi Shadow Minister (Community Cohesion), Communities and Local Government

My Lords, is the Minister aware of discrepancies between in-country information provided in briefs by the Foreign Office and reports produced by Amnesty and Human Rights Watch about the situation in Iran? If the Minister accepts that there are such discrepancies and that our information is not entirely correct, how can our decisions possibly be correct?

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, I am going by the information provided, I admit, by the Foreign Office in conjunction with some NGOs. We have no evidence of anyone we have sent back being executed, and we would never send someone back who we felt was in danger of being executed. That is our position with any country in the world; we just do not do that.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Spokesperson in the Lords (Civil Liberties), Home Affairs, Spokesperson in the Lords (Africa), Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs

My Lords, further to the point raised by the noble Baroness, is the Minister aware that the Country of Origin Information Service report on Iran, published by the Home Office, is deficient in many respects? Does he know that it omits quite a few public domain references to the persecution of gays in Iran, including in particular the execution of Makwan Mouloudzadeh, a teenager who was executed for a homosexual offence allegedly committed when he was 13? Will the noble Lord make sure that the Home Office Country of Origin Information Service updates its report and that, in particular, it looks at material in the public domain such as that which one can find on Wikipedia?

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord that we will look at that. It is worth repeating that we have concerns about the treatment of gays within Iran. However, in the one case that we looked into, because it was shown on television, we found that two young males were hanged because they were found guilty of raping a 13 year-old boy. They were hanged for the offence of rape. Nevertheless, we certainly will look at the point that the noble Lord raises, as we need to do so.

Photo of Lord Wedderburn of Charlton Lord Wedderburn of Charlton Labour

My Lords, can my noble friend explain how the Foreign Office has performed the miracle of having Nelson still alive in its offices with his telescope stuck to his blind eye?

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, as a naval person I should be able to answer that. All I can say is that I will talk to my colleagues in the Foreign Office to try to ensure that we are getting the best flavour of exactly what is happening in Iran.