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Friday, 18 May 2007

Australian Refugee Review Tribunal 'homophobic': detainee

Source: ABC

By Caro Meldrum

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.

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.


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