Thursday, 26 May 2011

In Australia, has government moved to protect gay refugees?

Source: City Voice

Members of the LGBTI community have called upon the Australian Government to ensure that refugees who identify as gay or lesbian are having their claims treated fairly and appropriately.

The call follows the release of documents this month by the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT), which shows that in May the tribunal overturned decisions relating to three gay and lesbian asylum seekers who had their original claims wrongfully rejected by the Immigration Department.

The three separate cases involved two males, and one female from the countries of Jordan, India and Uganda.

In each case, it seems one of the initial reasons to not grant a protection visa was because the Immigration Department delegates involved in the interviews did not accept that the applicant was a homosexual or lesbian but merely adopting such a persona.

Senthorun Raj, from the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL) believes it is problematic that claims of persecution reported by LGBTI asylum seekers continue to either be ignored or misunderstood.
“Sexual orientation and gender identity is a culturally and historically specific set of practices and identifications.

“To imply that there is a universal 'homosexual persona', and judge all claims against this mythic or stereotypical standard, effectively erases the voices of a disparate range of asylum seekers who face persecution on the basis of being a sexual or gender minority in their particular country of origin,” Raj said.
The documents show that visa claims for the man from Jordan, and the other male from India were partly rejected on the grounds that they did not know enough about gay culture, either in their countries of origin or the local gay scene, and that they had not “explored or embraced” their homosexuality sufficiently enough while in Australia.

Likewise, in the case of a Ugandan woman, who had been beaten and raped in the country’s capital of Kampala because she was a lesbian, an immigration official had accused her of "adopting the persona of a homosexual" to secure a protection visa.

Only a few weeks ago, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd slammed the Ugandan Government over its involvement in trying to push an Anti-Homosexuality Bill through its parliament.

A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen told City Voice that while asylum seekers’ claims are assessed on a case by case basis, moves were being made by the minister to legislate for further protection of people who may be facing serious human rights violations in their country of origin.
“The Government has introduced the Migration Amendment (Complementary Protection) Bill, which is designed to ensure protection is provided to those who fear significant harm for reasons not necessarily covered by the Refugees Convention, such as, in certain circumstances, persecution on the basis of their homosexuality,” the spokeswoman said.
The bill is currently before the House of Representatives however it is likely the Coalition will continue to oppose it, meaning the passage of the bill will be reliant on the support of Greens and Independent MPs.
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