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Gay, Lesbian, Transgender Asylum Seekers Part 2 - Jenni Millbank Article
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In built up areas around Australia there are street-signs to notify traffic about concrete islands in the middle of the road for pedestrians. The diamond shape sign with a simple graphic of people crossing, the tall person leading the smaller one by the arm, is accompanied by a rectangular sign just under, which reads ‘REFUGE ISLAND’.

These concrete safe havens, or ‘Refuge Islands’ are provided for the ‘public’ by our ‘authorities’ to alleviate concerns about taking our vulnerable bodies across treacherous roadways to our destination on the other side. Meanwhile, those peoples making a treacherous journey to seek asylum here when fleeing from persecution overseas are greeted with further persecution by our armed forces. Instead of a safe-haven, the refugees are left stranded in concrete camps.

So, in light of this, many of the street-signs receive a simple alteration using photocopy cut-outs, so that a machine gun appears in the free hand of the tall person, with the gun pointing towards the head of the smaller person. Underneath, the slightly altered text now reads ‘REFUGEE ISLAND’.

CONCENTRATION CAMP: for the detention of non-combatants, political prisoners, internees, etc., esp. in Nazi Germany (w.connotations of inhuman privations endured by the inhabitants). Definition from The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 1993 Edition.







Since November 2002 Lesbian and Gay Solidarity (LGS) has been made aware of three incidents involving gay and lesbian asylum seekers. The first one was in November 2002, and we were advised of the impending deportation from Villawood of a young gay man and his sister, believed to be Iranians, the day before their deportation order was to be carried out. LGS emailed urgently as many people as possible in order to try and get assistance, but it was already too late! The two people were deported the day after we had received the advice.

LGS heard about a gay couple, believed to be from Bangladesh, in April 2003, and again it was too late to do anything, and again we contacted relevant people on our email list who had contacted us over the first incident.

The story of the Bangladeshis now has a sequel, as reported in The Age (Melbourne) newspaper on Wednesday 10 December 2003

The whole article is reproduced below as follows:

Homosexuality a basis for asylum, court rules

(The article is by Meaghan Shaw, Canberra)

In a world first, the High Court of Australia yesterday declared that homosexuality could be a basis for a refugee claim.

The court ordered the Refugee Review Tribunal to reassess the claims of a gay Bangladeshi couple who had claimed they would be persecuted if they returned home because of their sexuality.

The men, who live in Sydney and have not been named publicly, arrived in Australia in 1999 claiming refugee status.

They said they were forced to leave their Dhaka home, had lost their jobs and had been sentenced to death by stoning by a religious council.

The Refugee Review Tribunal raised doubts about their credibility and rejected their claims, including that one of the men was sentenced to receive 300 lashes.

The tribunal found that, if the men were discreet, they would avoid problems when they went home.

But the High Court found, in a four judges to three decision, that the tribunal should have considered what might happen if the men lived openly as a homosexual couple.

The full bench also found the tribunal erred by dividing Bangladeshi homosexuals into two groups - discreet and non-discreet - and failed to consider whether the men might suffer harm if police, employers or others, knew of their homosexuality.

The men's barrister, Bruce Levet, called it a landmark decision for including people of a particular sexual preference within the term "social group" under the interantional convention on refugees.

"It's the first time anywhere in the world that a final appellant court of a country has considered a refugee claim based on the grounds of sexual orientation," he said.

"Not only is it a statement of what the law is in Australia, but because refugee decision makers around the world look at each other's rulings very closely, it's got a huge potential to influence decision making and jurisprudence in all countries which receive refugees."

Mr Levet used the example of holocaust victim Anne Frank to argue in the court against the tribunal's ruling that the men would not face problems if they were discreet.

"To say to a homosexual: 'Be discreet about it, you'll be all right', was about the equivalent of saying to Anne Frank if she turned up to Australia: 'Go back to your attic . . .keep hiding and you'll be OK'," Mr Levet said.

LGS banner

Photo by Robert Stainsby, 24 March 2002

refugee t shirt picture

The third story is the one in the following news item of October 2003, and confirms that we ought to have some sort of organisation in place to address the crisis.

The Sydney Star Observer carried a report from B.NEWS by Adam Carr under the heading:


in its Issue 683 dated 9 October 2003 about a gay man from Pakistan who suffered barbaric punishments before seeking asylum in Australia, but the Australian government doesn't seem to think this counts as persecution.

The report details how Ashraf Mahmood came to be in Australia and what his circumstances are at the present and what is likely to happen to him if he is returned to Pakistan.

The story makes grim reading and is a reminder to us who live here that safety and security are very fragile and we have to keep fighting to ensure our hard-won freedoms are not removed.

Unfortunately, reading stories such as this reminds us that the Australian government, with its new anti-terrorist and ASIO bills, has powers which should not belong to a democratic country.

21 April 2003

In November 2002 Lesbian and Gay Solidarity, Melbourne (LGS) was contacted by some very concerned friends, who had been approached to assist a gay man and his sister from Nigeria who were in Villawood detention centre and were about to be deported.

By the time LGS had contacted people by email and spread the message - the day after we were contacted - the two asylum seekers had already been deported.

So many other events were taking place at the time that LGS didn't contact all those who had responded to thank them and to suggest that we have in place some contacts for the next emergency, when it arises.

The situation has again arisen in a different context, but one in which the alarm bells are ringing once more because of the present federal government's disregard for human rights and its breaches of its obligation under international conventions protocols.

The story, as reported in The Age newspaper on 9 April 2003 is a repeat of a situation that arose some years ago. A gay couple took a claim for asylum to the High Court on 8 April 2003 in a world-first case, arguing that they could not live openly homosexual lifestyles in Bangladesh.

The men say they were ostracised by their families and community, stoned, whipped and risked police bashings after being exposed as a gay couple. Their local Islamic council had issued a death sentence against them.

The seven judges of the High Court reserved their decision. (This has now had a resolution - see article above, from The Age newspaper dated 10 December 2003)

LGS wishes to thank all who contacted us at the time of the earlier emergency and to ask that we have some form of structure in place so that we can call on people who will be able to help each time such a situation arises.

Jenni Millbank is a Senior Lecturer in Law, Faculty of Law, University of Sydney.

Jenni has sent us several links which will be very be useful as we try and put together a help site to assist current and future gay, lesbian and transgender asylum seekers who are having trouble trying to legalise their situations.

Jenni informs us that "there are upwards of 40 cases on sexuality released by the RRT (Refugee Review Tribunal) every year - and that may not be all of them."

Decisions of the RRT are available at Austlii for free

Refugee Review Tribunal

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (based in the US) has a lot of really useful country information that applicants may need to build their cases:

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission

A number of these cases have been handled at Federal Court level by Parish Patience solicitors

Parish Patience Solicitors

Jenni has also written about the Australian cases and trends and is happy for us to link to her work -

"Before the High Court: Applicants S396/2002 and S395/2002, a gay refugee couple from Bangladesh" (2003) 25 Sydney Law Review 97-124 online at

"Before the High Court" Sydney Law Review

'Imagining Otherness: Refugee Claims on the Basis of Sexuality in Canada and Australia' (2002) 26 Melbourne University Law Review 144-177 online at

Imagining Otherness:Refugee Claims on the Basis of Sexuality in Canada and Australia

"It is not reasonable for homosexuals to 'be discreet' in fear for their lives - posted Thursday 18 December 2003"

Jenni is also happy for us to print a new piece on how woeful the tribunal is in its use of evidence. The complete article is on the link:

posters at rally

There have been many books and journal articles written about asylum seekers, not necessarily from a lesbian, gay, transgender perspective, but they are useful reading for people trying to gain some understanding of the politics of what is going on with the Federal Government's (and the Opposition's) policies and laws and regulations.

Some of these books and journal articles - and radio programmes - are listed below:

ABC Radio National - Background Briefing: 20 June 2004 - The Detention Industry The Detention Industry

ASYLUM - Voices behind the razor wire - by Heather Tyler, Lothian Books, 2003

ASYLUM SEEKERS - Australia's Response to Refugees - by Don McMaster, Melbourne University Press, 2001, 2002

DARK VICTORY - by David Marr and Marian Wilkinson - Allen and Unwin, 2003

DISORDER/DYSFUNCTION and several articles on asylum seekers and refugees, in overland: issue 172 SPRING 2003

DON'T TELL THE PRIME MINISTER - by Patrick Weller - Scribe Publications, 2002

GIRT BY SEA - Australia, the refugees and the politics of fear - by Mungo MacCallum - Quarterly Essay No.5, 2002

SENDING THEM HOME - Refugees and the new politics of indifference - by Robert Manne with David Corlett - Quarterly Essay No.13, 2004

We have been given permission to link to a web site of relevance to the ongoing tragedy of asylum seekers in Australia :
we are all BOAT PEOPLE

posters at rally

Flotilla of Hope

- a group of amazing activists who are sailing to Nauru to draw attention to the plight of asylum seekers fleeing from their war-ravished homelands, yet incarcerated by the Australian Government on the Pacific Nation of Nauru.

The letter below was sent to The Age in response to an article by Martin Woollacott of the Guardian on 12 April 2004. The letter was not published.

Letters Editor, The Age Newspaper, 250 Spencer Street, Melbourne Vic. 3000.


Tuesday, 13 April 2004-04

From: Kendall Lovett, 2/12 Murphy Grove, Preston Vic. 3072.

Email: josken_at_zipworld_com_au Tel: (03) 9471 4878

Martin Woollacott of The Guardian (Opinion 12/04) makes mention of “the idea that the Americans are losing their way and have no clear idea how to reassert themselves” in Iraq. Easily! Get out now.

Give the Iraqis the immense amount of money and other resources saved by withdrawal. Let the Iraqis themselves rebuild their country that is being systematically destroyed by the occupying force. The rest of the Coalition of the Willing should be required pro rata to do the same.

Iraq obviously will never become a democracy unless the people take the initiative. Remember South Africa! A completely rookie governing body and just look what it has achieved. The people of Iraq have to solve the problems of the Sunnis, the Kurds and the Shiites for themselves. Give them the resources, the oil is theirs anyway, and they will achieve a democracy of their own making.

Signed: Kendall Lovett Preston.

US torture of Iraqis 2004

The letter below was sent to The Age on 11 May 2004, and they did not publish it. It was then sent to The Sunday Age, and was published on 16 May 2004.

Letters Editor, The Age Newspaper,

250 Spencer Street, Melbourne, Vic. 3000. Email:

Tuesday, 11 May 2004

From: Kendall Lovett, 2/12 Murphy Grove, Preston, Vic. 3072.

Email: josken_at_zipworld_com_au Tel: (03) 9471 4878

As long as abuse is kept hidden, the rest of us imagine that recommendations for the treatment of prisoners are maintained according to the Geneva Convention.

All this wringing of pietistical official hands over prisoner abuse in Iraq (with photos) is true to type. Any wonder we doubt their sincerity?

At home in “the land of the free” they still shackle prisoners in “chain gangs.” Here, in our homeland, they hide men, women, and children in “island detention” away from sight and sound of us for months and years simply for being asylum seekers fleeing from life/death in abused and abusive countries.

Brutality and bullying by America on the world stage and by Australia in the South Pacific needs to be recognised for what it is: inhuman.

Signed: Kendall Lovett, Preston (03) 9471 4878.

29 September 2004

The Letters Editor, The Melbourne Age,

250 Spencer Street, Melbourne Vic. 3000. Email:

Wednesday, 29 September 2004.

From: Kendall Lovett, 2/12 Murphy Grove, Preston Vic.3072.

Tel: (03) 9471 4878. Email: josken_at_zipworld_com_au

Arnold Zable is so right that during this election campaign, refugee and human rights issues are off the political agenda (The Age, 29.9.04).

Why aren’t Howard and his ministers, Latham and his shadow lot, being asked pointedly why there are still 86 children incarcerated in Australia’s detention centres? Their predicament and that of some stateless adults in mandatory detention was made worse on August 6 when the High Court ruled the Migration Act authorised detention for life.

The Edmund Rice Centre and the Catholic University reported that deportees were being locked up and placed at risk on arrival back in the country they had fled from for various political and religious reasons (The Age, 29.9.04). The Report, “Danger to Danger,” also claimed that Federal agencies have sent incriminating material overseas about deportees. So, why are 525 unsuccessful Tamil asylum seekers being forced to return to Sri Lanka after fleeing to Australia from violence and torture in that country? Immigration is aware Sri Lankan armed forces continue to harass civilians, despite a truce (The Age, 20.9.09).

Isn’t it time our politicians extended their largesse to those asylum seekers who remain locked up in our concentration camps or on expired and temporary protection visas? Free them all.

Signed: Kendall Lovett

During 2004 and again in 2005, LGS has heard of further cases of incarceration and deportation threats to return people to the regimes they fled from and which will murder them when they are returned because of their sexual orientation. One such case is detailed below:

21 December 2004

The following item was forwarded to us from Adelaide and needs as much publicity as possible. Hopefully it will be picked up by gay, lesbian and transgender activists around the country who will be able to do something about another crime about to be committed in our concentration camps!

From: "Ian Purcell" Date: 21/12/2004 13:36:01

To: "'Ian Purcell'" Subject: FW: Gay Iranian guy in Baxter

Hi to all Let's Get Equal Campaign Supporters

Normally, I wouldn't use the LGE email list for other issues (and I apologise in advance for this), but I think when you read the following request from my good friend Paul Hyam, you will understand the special circumstances under which I chose to do so. If like me, you are appalled with the Howard Government's treatment of the Bakhtiyari family, here's another situation (also appalling) in which you may be able to help.

Best wishes for Christmas & the New Year

Ian Purcell

Hello there,

My name is Paul Hyam and I am writing to ask if you would consider joining a "Circle of Friends" to support a gay Iranian man who is being held in Baxter detention centre.

He came to Australia by boat in 2000 and applied for refugee status on the grounds of his homosexuality and the persecution of homosexuals in Iran. He was assessed and denied refugee status. I have read the transcript of his hearing and was astounded at its conduct. He was asked questions about his contact with a gay subculture within Iran. The questions made analogies to western gay cultural icons like Oscar Wilde and Madonna! He said that he didn't understand the questions. The hearing seemed to interpret this as meaning that he had no knowledge of a gay cultural life in Iran and hence could not be truly gay himself. The hearing also questioned the fact that gay men in Iran are at risk, despite the fact that the law allows for homosexual men to be executed.

He appealed the decision to the Federal Court and won his appeal. The Minister for Immigration then appealed that decision to the full Federal Court and unfortunately that appeal was upheld. He has subsequently sought leave to appeal to the High Court and leave was granted. He now waits for his appeal to be heard by the High Court, but that may not occur for perhaps 12 months and he has already spent 4.5 years in detention. He is now applying for a Bridging Visa which will allow him to live in the community until his High Court appeal is heard. Asylum seekers who are released on a Bridging Visa are not permitted to work and receive no Federal Government benefits. Such a visa will only be issued to him if there is a group of Australian citizens who commit to supporting him financially. The Australian Refugee Association administers such groups and they are called "Circles of Friends".

Peter Tonkin and I have been visiting him this year and are now in the process of establishing a Circle of Friends for him. It is estimated that we will require about $300 per week to support him. Donations by members of a Circle of Friends are tax deductible through the affiliation with the Australian Refugee Association.

I would be pleased to hear from you if you are able to join this Circle of Friends. Even if you are unable to make a financial contribution you are still welcome to join the group as you may be able to help in other ways.

Please contact me as soon as possible if you are able to assist.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Hyam


Phone: (08) 82240084 in Australia, 61 8 8224 0084 if outside Australia, or 0421376857.

30 December 2004

The Australian government is probably the most despicable on record, but even this government's depths were plumbed today with the deportation of the asylum seeker Bakhtyari family of 8 to Pakistan - their homeland being Afghanistan. They are Hazaras, a group persecuted in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, so it can be imagined to what future these people have been sent, kicked out of Australia for daring to be asylum seekers. This at a time when there has been one of the worst natural disasters in human memory with the earth quake and following tsunami in which the number of people who have lost their lives is already estimated to be nearly 100, 000 and climbing. To put it all in context, several Australians have lost their lives in the tragedy - numbers as yet unknown, but we haven't room in Australia for 8 people from a country or countries, where they are not considered sufficiently "white or anglo" for this racist government and loyal opposition!

23 MAY 2007

We were sent this information on Australia's Concentration Camp Costing and believe it needs as much publicity as possible. We are indebted to Pamela Curr for the information.

Take a look at how "good economic managers" spend OUR money persecuting refugees and asylum seekers.

Of course this is only the financial cost- the human cost is not measurable. Imagine how much was squandered when the Detention Centres were bursting!

2006-07 Costs per detention centre

Detention Centre: Nauru
Fixed Annual Cost: $28 million
Cost per detainee per day: -

Detention Centre: Manus Island (EMPTY)
Fixed Annual Cost: $2 million
Cost per detainee per day: mothballed

Detention Centre: Baxter
Fixed Annual Cost: $23.3 million
Cost per detainee per day: $115

Detention Centre: Villawood
Fixed Annual Cost: 16.9 million
Cost per detainee per day: $154

Detention Centre: Christmas Island (current)
Fixed Annual Cost: $6.8 million
Cost per detainee per day: -

Detention Centre: Marbynong
Fixed Annual Cost: $5.3 million
Cost per detainee per day: $104

Detention Centre: Perth
Fixed Annual Cost: $4.6 million
Cost per detainee per day: $189

Detention Centre: Northern (Darwin)
Fixed Annual Cost: $3.9 million
Cost per detainee per day: $122

Detention Centre: Port Augusta
Fixed Annual Cost: $2.2 million
Cost per detainee per day: $122

Detention Centre: Port Hedland (EMPTY)
Fixed Annual Cost: $0.72 million
Cost per detainee per day: mothballed

TOTAL $93.72 million

. Pamela Curr ASRC Campaigns

9 MAY 2007

The following article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 9 May 2007:

Bisexuality a result of detention, detainee told

by Erik Jensen

(Photo to be added ): Ali Humayun, right, with his partner … he fears deportation.

A MAN seeking asylum on the grounds that he would be persecuted as a bisexual Christian in Pakistan was denied refugee status because authorities ruled he was bisexual only as a result of being locked up with other men.

Giles Short, the Refugee Review Tribunal member who made the decision, said in his finding: "the applicant was not in fact bisexual … [his relationship] was simply the product of the situation where only partners of the same sex were available and said nothing about his sexual orientation."

He said this was the case in many relationships in prisons and detention centres.

In evidence to the tribunal, Ali Humayun said he and his partner had discussed marriage. But Mr Short dismissed this as "a contrived attempt to make their relationship appear more serious".

His findings were upheld by the Federal Magistrates Court on February 19, which said the decision on Mr Humayun's sexuality had been a "finding of fact".

Mr Humayun came to Australia in 2000 to study information technology and has spent more than two years in Villawood Detention Centre. He said he began his first same-sex relationship before entering the centre. At the time of his tribunal hearing, he identified as bisexual, but now said he was gay.

Mr Humayun says he is the only openly gay detainee at Villawood - his partner has been granted asylum. He says he is persecuted daily by detainees, but fears worse in Pakistan. "I'm worried for my life if I am deported home," he said. "The men in my family, they are really fundamentalist types. Muslims. My lifestyle is totally in contrast to what they believe." Pakistani civil law punishes gay sex with jail terms of between two years and life. Under Islamic law, homosexuals can face 100 lashes or death by stoning.

Mr Humayun said he converted to Christianity after the attacks of September 11, 2001. The tribunal rejected that claim on the grounds that he could not answer questions such as naming the first four books of the New Testament, and had not actively pursued the religion in detention.

Mr Humayun was detained after he was caught working on a bridging visa. His appeal for asylum has been rejected by the Department of Immigration and the tribunal. He is writing to the Minister for Immigration, Kevin Andrews, requesting he intervene on humanitarian grounds.

The Greens senator Kerry Nettle, who met Mr Humayun on Friday, said she would raise the case with the minister. She was concerned Mr Humayun was in a part of Villawood usually reserved for people with criminal records. "It's like a prison," she said. "All of the other detainees have been convicted of criminal offences, apart from him."

Mr Humayun said he was moved when guards received an anonymous, hand-written note saying he was planning to escape. He said he asked to see the note, but it was never shown to him.

A tribunal spokeswoman declined to comment on the case, citing confidentiality provisions in the Migration Act. Mr Andrews was unavailable for comment.

In 2003 the High Court ruled that a Bangladeshi couple should not be deported as they would face persecution for being gay.

Mr Humayun said: "I am hopeful, but at this stage I have realistic expectations. I don't expect to be getting out soon."

19 MAY 2007

The following report came from the ABC on 19 May 2007:

Refugee Review Tribunal 'homophobic': detainee

By Caro Meldrum

(Photo to be supplied): A 26-year-old Pakistani Christian, Ali Humayun, has been in Villawood Detention Centre for more than two years.Supplied

A vigil has been held in eastern Sydney for a homosexual Christian Pakistani man who has been detained at Sydney's Villawood Detention Centre for more than two years.

Ali Humayun's application for asylum was based on fear of persecution if he returned home, but was rejected by the Refugee Review Tribunal last October.

The tribunal ruled that the 26-year-old's sexual orientation was a result of his detention. Mr Humayun identified himself as bisexual before entering a relationship with 41-year-old Spanish citizen, Julio Lorenzo, at the detention centre last year.

Mr Humayun now identifies as homosexual.

In the tribunal's judgment, decision maker Giles Short rejected Mr Humayun's claim on the basis of inconsistent evidence.

"I do not accept that the applicant is in fact bisexual in sexual orientation as he claims." "I consider that his relationship with Mr Lorenzo is simply the product of the situation, where only partners of the same sex are available, and says nothing about his sexual orientation."

Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) organised last night's vigil at Taylor Square in Darlinghurst, to mark International Day Against Homophobia - IDAHO.

Dozens of protesters, surrounded by candles and armed with placards, called for the release of Mr Humayun, claiming the tribunal is homophobic.

Farida Iqbal is a spokeswoman for CAAH.

She rejects the tribunal's finding that Mr Humayun's sexuality is a result of being in close confinement with men.

"That whole argument is an inherently homophobic argument. Isn't there a more plausible explanation, that they are gay and that they've been gay all along?

"Especially the risk that he is taking by coming out of the closet. To me that's not 'situational homosexuality'. He is risking his life."

"I've seen him with his boyfriend. To me it looks like they're very much in love, you can just see that when they're together, it's absolutely clear"

Mr Lorenzo was granted permanent residency in Australia three months ago. Since then, he has been visiting Mr Humayun almost every day.

"This is real, it comes from the heart," he said. "We love each other from the heart. I walked out of Villawood and if that was the case, if it was only sex, then I wouldn't be going to see him, I wouldn't be trying as hard as I am trying to get him out. "We want to get married, but marriage isn't everything to us. We will stay together for ever even if we don't get married."

But in the tribunal's decision, member Giles Short dismissed their desire to marry. "He (Mr Humayun) said that if he and Mr Lorenzo could stay in Australia they would and that they did not need to get married to stay together.....this suggests to me that the applicant's evidence and Mr Lorenzo's, that he and Mr Lorenzo often talked about marriage, was a contrived attempt to make their relationship appear more serious than it is."

Mr Humayun is currently being held in the maximum security section at Villawood, stage one. Ms Iqbal says Mr Humayun is afraid of other detainees.

"He cops a lot of homophobia from the other detainees," she said. "He stays in his room most days because he's scared of the other men's reaction. He's suffering immensely." "But what he fears most is being sent back to Pakistan. He will be severely persecuted if he is deported."

Mr Lorenzo says that Mr Humayun comes from a fundamentalist Muslim family, but converted to Christianity several months ago. He says Mr Humayun told him and the tribunal that his father and brother have threatened to kill him if he returns to Pakistan because he has disgraced his family.

"Pakistan is not a society like ours. We've got the Government and then we've got the Church separately. But over there the Church, the spiritual leader is above anything else and so his family are already threatening," he said. "They don't think like we think. I am scared for him myself."

But in the tribunal's judgment, member Giles Short also dismissed that claim. "I am not satisfied that the applicant's conduct in telling his family in Pakistan about his claimed bisexuality and his claimed relationship with Mr Lorenzo was engaged in otherwise than for the purpose of strengthening his claim to be a refugee."

Mr Humayun lodged a Ministerial Request to overturn the tribunal's decision with the Department of Immigration on March 23rd. The Minister for Immigration, Kevin Andrews, says he is not able to comment on Mr Humayun's case because he has not yet received the request. A spokeswoman for the Minister says the department has received the request and it is currently being processed. She says it will be given to Mr Andrews in the next few days.

(Related Images - to be provided): Julio Lorenzo (left) says he will not give up the fight to get his partner, Ali Humayun, out of Villawood Detention Centre.Supplied

Members of Community Action Against Homophobia call for the release of Pakistani national Ali Humayun from Villawood Detention Centre at the vigil in Taylors Square.ABC News Sydneysiders stopped to sign a petition calling for the release of Villawood Detention Centre detainee Ali Humayun at the vigil at Taylors Square in Darlinghurst.ABC News Related Video Refugee Review Tribunal 'homophobic': detainee Scenes from the vigil for Villawood Detention Centre detainee Ali Humayun, whose claim for asylum was rejected by the Refugee Review Tribunal in October last year. Real Broadband Real Dialup Win Broadband Win Dialup Flash Dialup Flash Broadband Related Audio Julio Lorenzo speaks about his relationship with his partner, 26-year-old Ali Humayun Julio Lorenzo speaks about his relationship with 26-year-old Ali Humayun, who he met while in Villawood Detention Centre. MP3 MP3 MP3

13 JUNE 2007

The following item was in the MCV 13 June 2007


The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has granted queer Pakistani refugee, Ali Humayun, currently incarcerated at Sydney's Villawood Detention Centre, a four hour home visit. The visit took place on May 31, allowing Ali to spend time with his boyfriend, Julio Lorenzo, at Lorenzo's family home. Previously, DIAC officials had refused to recognise Humayun's sexuality.

"It was good to get out of Villawood for four hours [but] I would like more home visits," Humayun said. "These trips out of Villawood go a long way in terms of a detainee's mental health. Ultimately though, I would love to be freed."

Currently detainees are allowed only one home visit per month.

Activist group Community Action Against Homophobia continue to agitate for Humayun to be granted Australian citizenship.

26 MAY 2010

Article in The Age online:

We have little tolerance for gays seeking asylum


Same-sex couple Steven Monjeza (left) and Tiwonge Chimbalanga will serve 14 years in jail after being married in Malawi. Photo: Reuters (not yet available)

Last week a court in Malawi sentenced a gay couple who staged a same-sex wedding to 14 years in prison with hard labour for "violating the natural order". Magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa told the two men that he was handing down a particularly "scaring sentence so that the public [would] be protected from people like you, so that we are not tempted to emulate this horrendous example".

Malawi is one of 37 African countries in which homosexuality is considered illegal. Around the world, there are another 26 countries where all homosexuality is considered a criminal offence (and an additional 17 countries where male homosexuality is illegal but female homosexuality is not criminlised, largely because it is thought not to exist.)

Punishments range from whipping and incarceration (including life sentences) to the death penalty. The systemic homophobia and widespread persecution of gay and lesbian individuals across the globe is absolutely appalling.

Under Australia's Migration Act, individuals can appeal for refugee status on the basis that they hold a "well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion".

In 2003, the High Court of Australia determined that homosexuals could claim to belong to "a particular social group" and so were entitled to apply for asylum if they could demonstrate that they were homosexual and that they faced persecution in their country of origin.

Conservative opponents were quick to argue that the "floodgates were now open" and "we" were about to be "swamped by tidal waves of immigrants". Others expressed concern over the potential for spurious claims to be made, circumventing Australia's refugee laws.

They need not have worried. Time and again the Australia Refugee Review Tribunal has proved itself to be breathtakingly obstinate and utterly insensitive towards those who apply for refugee status on the basis of their sexuality. Some of these decisions have been upheld by the highest courts in the land.

In one case a gay refugee couple who had experienced violence and harassment in their Bangladeshi homeland were told that they would be safe to return home provided they "conducted themselves in a discreet manner". The tribunal noted that "men [in Bangladesh] who conform outwardly to social norms, most importantly by marrying and having children, can get away with male to male sex provided it is kept secret".

Of course a person's right to be safely homosexual extends well beyond the right to seek out "discreet" homosexual sex. Furthermore, if we were to extend the tribunal's logic to cases involving people seeking asylum on religious or political grounds, this would not be dissimilar to ordering that progressive libertarians can live quite happily under oppressive Taliban regimes by simply practising their beliefs in private while outwardly conforming.

In a separate case, the tribunal attempted to determine the veracity of a claimant's homosexuality by asking him to describe the "art, literature, song lyrics [and] popular cultural icons [that] spoke to him in his isolation from the rest of society". It was indicated that they were looking for examples such as Madonna, Oscar Wilde, Greco-Roman wrestling and Bette Midler. The court added that the line of questioning was justified and comparable to quizzing Catholics on the Bible.

Ignoring the fact that the particular claimant was Iranian (and that none of the mentioned works were originally spoken, written or sung in Farsi), the court failed to realise that there are no agreed upon "homosexual" texts or icons that reach across international boundaries. There is no Big Gay Bible for homosexuals to diligently memorise and recite before a court.

Another claimant was rejected in 2007 on the grounds that because his first homosexual experiences had occurred while in detention, his homosexuality was not real, but "situational". That same year, a Fijian homosexual who had been physically and sexually assaulted was ordered home and told to simply ignore the verbal abuse and derogatory treatment he experienced.

Another homosexual who had been arrested and assaulted, first by the Fijian police and then by the militia for having gay sex, was told that while the court accepted his homosexuality and his story, they were not satisfied that he faced any further persecution.

Then in 2008 a court expressed concern over the fact that a Pakistani man only had a single "one night stand" to show for the "many months" he had spent in Australia. Evidently, it is not enough to simply identify as homosexual; one must also pass a promiscuity test.

Still others have been rejected on the basis that because of their conservative dress or appearance, they are likely to be able to "pass" as heterosexual and therefore are not at risk of facing persecution. Ignoring the fact that what a person wears before a court is not necessarily indicative of how they normally dress, we should note that irrespective of a person's ability to pass, "straight looking" (whatever that means) homosexuals still suffer incredible oppression, fear and intimidation when living in countries that outlaw homosexuality.

The farcical incompetence exhibited by the courts would almost be amusing if it did not impact so tragically on the lives of real people. The homophobia exhibited within Australian courts and the wider community illustrates that there is still much intolerance to overcome.

Nina Funnell is a researcher in the journalism and media research centre at the University of NSW.

Our kitten DeeCee came to us as an asylum seeker in September 2003 after a house fire in the next door house left him abandoned by his carer who didn't return for him.

There have been many books and journal articles written about asylum seekers, not necessarily from a lesbian, gay, transgender perspective, but they are useful reading for people trying to gain some understanding of the politics of what is going on with the Federal Government's (and the Opposition's) policies and laws and regulations.

Some of these books and journal articles - and radio programmes - are listed below:

ABC Radio National - Background Briefing: 20 June 2004 - The Detention Industry The Detention Industry

ASYLUM - Voices behind the razor wire - by Heather Tyler, Lothian Books, 2003

ASYLUM SEEKERS - Australia's Response to Refugees - by Don McMaster, Melbourne University Press, 2001, 2002

DARK VICTORY - by David Marr and Marian Wilkinson - Allen and Unwin, 2003

DISORDER/DYSFUNCTION and several articles on asylum seekers and refugees, in overland: issue 172 SPRING 2003

DON'T TELL THE PRIME MINISTER - by Patrick Weller - Scribe Publications, 2002

GIRT BY SEA - Australia, the refugees and the politics of fear - by Mungo MacCallum - Quarterly Essay No.5, 2002

SENDING THEM HOME - Refugees and the new politics of indifference - by Robert Manne with David Corlett - Quarterly Essay No.13, 2004

Reading updates will be found at:



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RED JOS BLOGSPOT (from January 2009 onwards)

This page last updated 4 NOVEMBER 2010