Last edited: January 02, 2005

Asylum Is Granted to Gay Jamaicans

The Daily Telegraph, October 13, 2002

By Martin Bentham, Social Affairs Correspondent

Two Jamaican homosexuals have been granted asylum in Britain on the grounds that their lives are in danger because of “severe homophobia” in their home country.

At least seven other men from the Caribbean island are claiming asylum because of their sexual orientation, while a tenth has obtained exceptional leave to stay. The cases are among the first successful asylum claims since a House of Lords ruling in 1999 which stated that “particular social groups”, including homosexuals, could qualify for refugee status.

The applications were supported by evidence of machete attacks, murders and threats against homosexuals in Jamaica and reinforced by concern about the lyrics of some of the country’s leading music stars. One recent hit record in Jamaica advocated “burning queers”, while others have called for the shooting and battering to death of homosexuals.

One of the two Jamaicans to be granted asylum, who called himself Matthew, said that he had suffered torment in his home country. “Being gay in Jamaica is a hell-house. When I was walking down the streets, I didn’t know who was going to attack me,” he said.” The police do nothing. I would be dead now in Jamaica.”

Barry O’Leary, a solicitor with Wesley Gryk, a law firm representing 26 homosexual asylum seekers, said that Jamaican men often faced severe persecution because of their sexuality. “We have Jamaican people seeking asylum whose gay compatriots have been chopped to death with machetes and the applicants themselves have been the victims of repeated homophobic attacks,” he said. “I am representing one client who has lost his last two partners to fatal homophobic attacks, one of which took place in church.”

The Home Office said that applicants from Jamaica, where homosexual intercourse is a criminal offence punishable with up to 10 years of hard labour, were eligible for asylum if they could prove that their government was failing to protect them. “If you are claiming persecution as part of a particular social group and the state is not providing adequate protection, there may be grounds for a valid claim,” said a spokesman.

Among the examples of homophobic attitudes cited by those supporting asylum applicants from Jamaica are the songs of Capelton, TOK and Elephant Man, three of the country’s most successful acts. TOK topped the charts in the Caribbean island for 13 weeks with the song Chi Chi Man—Jamaican slang for a gay man—which commended the burning of homosexuals.

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