Monday, February 05, 2007

A gay refugee gets to stay

A gay Iranian refugee has been allowed to stay in New Zealand, despite having lied on his applications for refugee status, the Dominion Post reported. The Refugee Status Appeals Authority found, correctly, that the man would face execution if returned to Iran, which is ruled by a fundamentalist Islamist regime.

The Dominion Post quoted the man, Ahmad Tahooni, as saying he initially didn’t reveal his sexuality as the reason he fled Iran because he came from a closed country. He said,

“When I arrived here I gradually learnt not to live life in a closet any more. I was inspired by the freedom here.”

The paper quotes Peter Brown, the associate immigration spokesman for the frequently anti-immigrant and xenophobic New Zealand First Party, complaining that accepting homosexuality as grounds for refugee status would make New Zealand a soft touch. He said,

“Some of those countries in the Middle East treat their own citizens, never mind whether they’re homosexual, in a dreadful sort of manner. We can't just open our doors and let all and sundry come in here.”

No, Mr. Brown, it’s always better to send people back to near certain death, isn’t it? Or maybe it’s just gay people Mr Brown has a problem with. He voted against the Civil Union Bill in its first reading, something that even then-National Party Leader Don Brash voted for.

I say good on the Authority for granting refugee status to Mr. Tahooni. Other countries send gay Iranian refugees back to face peril, but perhaps New Zealand, no thanks to people like Peter Brown, is just a little bit more fair and rational than other countries.

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