Friday, 15 November 2013, 13:00 , by Jacob Borg
The Maltese ‘entertainment’ industry employs a number of Russian people who come to the island on tourist visas. The perfect excuse to overstay their visas and apply for asylum in Malta may have just fallen into their laps.
A recent ruling by the European Court of Justice says that homosexual applicants for asylum may be offered protection if their country of origin persecutes homosexuality.
‘Switchers’ is usually a term associated with a person changing his or her political allegiances, but the ruling provides for the potential of a whole new type of switcher, namely straight Russians pretending to be gay in order to claim asylum due to persecution in Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is no stranger to demonstrating his manliness, has gained more notoriety for his spearheading of anti-gay laws.
A new Russian law passed this year criminalises “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors".
Russia has allowed homosexual relations since 1993, as it was previously a criminal offence under the Soviet regime. The new law has been seen as an attempt by the authorities to criminalise and stigmatise Russia’s gay community.
Three members of the Russian punk-rock group Pussy Riot, who are notorious in Russia for their politically loaded song lyrics containing feminist and LGBT rights themes, were jailed last year for “hooliganism and inciting racial hatred.”
Given the persecution in their country of origin, Russians in Malta may very well be able to take a stab at claiming asylum.
In its judgement, the European Court of Justice said that “it is common ground that a person’s sexual orientation is a characteristic so fundamental to his identity that he should not be forced to renounce it. In that connection, the Court recognises that the existence of criminal laws specifically targeting homosexuals supports a finding that those persons form a separate group which is perceived by the surrounding society as being different.”
The burden would then fall on the Maltese Courts, as the ECJ’s ruling states that “it is for the national authorities to undertake an examination of all the relevant facts concerning that country of origin, including its laws and regulations and the manner in which they are applied. In carrying out that examination, those authorities must determine whether, in the applicant’s country of origin, the term of imprisonment provided for by such legislation is applied in practice.”