Homosexuality is grounds for asylum in Europe
, according to a European Union court ruling Thursday.
Persecuted homosexual refugees from Africa facing imprisonment in their home countries of Sierra Leone, Uganda and Senegal now have legal grounds to file for asylum in EU member states, the BBC reported
The ruling stems from a request by a Netherlands court to provide guidance for three African refuges from Sierra Leone, Uganda and Senegal, who had reportedly requested asylum after being persecuted in their homeland.
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"Homosexual acts are a criminal offence in those three countries and may lead to serious punishment, from heavy fines to life imprisonment in certain cases," the EU judges ruled. "A term of imprisonment which accompanies a legislative provision which punishes homosexual acts may constitute an act of persecution per se, provided that it is actually applied."
According to Amnesty International, homosexuality is being "increasingly criminalized across Africa" with same-sex relationships banned in more than two dozen African nations including: Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Cameron, Nigeria, Senegal, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.
"The court considers that requiring members of a social group sharing the same sexual orientation to conceal it is incompatible with the recognition of a characteristic so fundamental to a person's identity that the persons concerned cannot be required to renounce it," the judges ruled, Britain's Telegraph reported
"Therefore, an applicant for asylum cannot be expected to conceal his homosexuality in his country of origin in order to avoid persecution," the judge added.
Exactly how European nations will determine a person seeking asylum is actually a homosexual is unclear.
Already some European nations allow refugees to seek asylum on the basis of their sexuality, the Telegraph noted. The ruling, however, will legitimize such amnesty requests in all 28 European Union member states.
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Though Thursday's ruling only applied to African refugees, the decision might also open the door for Russian homosexuals who are similarly seeking asylum in EU member countries considering the nation's recently adopted anti-gay laws, Germany's Deutsche Welle reported
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