British Labour party home secretary, Jacqui Smith, has stated that Iranian refugees can be safely be deported back to Iran “as long as they live their lives ‘discreetly’.”

Smith claimed that there was no real risk of Iranian authorities taking ‘adverse action’ against gay men and lesbians who were discreet in their behavior.

Smith made her verdict after MPs called on the government to change immigration policies on failed asylum-seekers. This call was ignited by the recent plight of Mehdi Kazemi, a gay Iranian teenager who faced execution if he returns to his home country.

Ms Smith rejected the call for an immediate halt to the deportation of gay and lesbian asylum seekers in a letter to a Liberal Democrat peer.

“We recognise that the conditions for gay and lesbian people in Iran – and many other countries – are such that some individuals are able to demonstrate a need for international protection,” she wrote.

“We do not, however, accept that we should make the presumption that each and every asylum-seeker who presents themselves as being of a particular nationality or sexuality, regardless of their particular circumstances, should automatically be allowed to remain in the UK.”

These controversial statements have been condemned by human rights campaigners, and Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay rights organisation Stonewall, has described the notion of gays escaping persecution by being ‘discreet’ as nonsense.

Other gay campaign groups estimate that 4,000 Iranians have been executed because of their sexuality since the late 1970’s.

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