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Russian Bi Activist Released From Detention, Will Get Asylum Hearing

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Wednesday Dec 11, 2013

A Russian bisexual activist facing deportation from England to Russia was released from detention after thousands signed a petition on calling for her release and demanding her asylum claim be given proper consideration.

The British newspaper the Independent reports 28-year-old Irina Putilova left St. Petersburg, Russia, 6 months ago, fearing for her safety under Russia's new anti-gay legislation, which criminalizes non-heterosexual relationships.

Putilova, who was involved with a number of gender equality and anti-authoritarian movements in Russia, including Voina, an internationally renowned art group, was detained on Nov. 29 after attending her first appointment at the asylum screening unit in Croydon. She faced immediate deportation.

She said she feared her life was in danger in Russia, having been followed, threatened, arrested and beaten up by the Russian police for her activism. Putilova said that Russian police went to her parents' home seeking information, threatened to break her legs and put her on a federal warrant list, meaning it is likely she will be arrested if she returns to Russia.

"I'm really happy that I got out and I'm really happy to see my friends," Putilova told the Independent. "I want to spend my time supporting other people inside. It's cruel detaining people [while they wait for asylum]. It means they can't have normal lives before they are deported. I hope my case helps make asylum for other LGBTQ people from Russia, and from other countries, easier."

She had been detained at Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre, which removed her from the Home Office's speedy asylum process that would have given her claim proper consideration. Her solicitor Milla Walker, of Luqmani Thompson & Partners, told the Independent that the case had seemed "inappropriate" for the fast-track process, which is meant for claims that have been identified as uncomplicated and quick to resolve.

The procedure has been criticized by human rights groups, such as Liberty, for detaining applicants on the basis of administrative convenience and by denying asylum-seekers the right to a "full and fair consideration of their claim."

"The majority of people who go into the fast-track don't necessarily have a solicitor or legal aid, and they don't have the amount of support Irina had. They don't get a level of quick intervention. When decisions are taken at the asylum screening unit, people who make these decisions have very little information about asylum claims," said Walker. "I send my clients with a letter, explaining the basis of their claims and why they don't meet the criteria. But clients tell me they refuse to look at the letters; they must make decisions based on other factors."

After three days in detention, Putilova is now free in east London, awaiting the date for her full asylum interview.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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