Wednesday, 13 April 2011

In Australia, asylum refusal for Bangladeshis taken to High Court

Coat of arms of BangladeshImage via Wikipedia
Source: The Age

By Selma Milovanovic

A Gay couple who came to Australia from Bangladesh have launched a High Court challenge over a decision to refuse them protection visas that was partly based on an anonymous letter claiming they were not homosexual.

The men, who claim they endured threats to kill, beatings and torture in Bangladesh because of their homosexuality, say a tribunal's decision to refuse them protection without showing them the letter was a miscarriage of justice.

The men, who cannot be named for legal reasons, say the letter is likely to have been written by their former migration agent, with whom they had argued over unpaid fees.
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The High Court's decision in their case, to be heard in coming months, is likely to influence standards for evidence and procedure in future Refugee Review Tribunal hearings.

The men, who have Christian backgrounds, came to Sydney for World Youth Day in 2008 and applied for protection visas.

The tribunal later affirmed the Immigration Minister's decision to refuse them protection, relying in part on the anonymous faxed letter.

The letter, which contained one of the men's Immigration Department file number and other personal details, said the man's claim he was gay ''was totally bogus''.

It said he had a girlfriend, that his claim that he had not visited his village since 2000 was ''totally false'' and that he had got his parents' blessing before leaving for Australia.

Tribunal member Giles Short said in 2009 he ''would not ordinarily place much weight on a message from an anonymous informant, but I consider it significant that the person … was clearly close enough to the applicant to know his passport number and the nature of the claims he had made in support of his application for a protection visa''.

Mr Short said the letter, along with other inconsistencies in the man's evidence, led him to conclude the man was not homosexual.

The tribunal also referred to the letter and inconsistencies in his partner's evidence when refusing the partner a protection visa. The partner had produced letters from former housemates and a co-worker confirming his homosexuality.

The High Court challenge follows two failed appeals in lower courts.

They want the last appeal decision set aside and an order that the tribunal rehear their application for review of the visa refusal.
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