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Senate hearing hears gay refugees in Australian run camps in New Guinea fear local laws

An Australian Senate estimates hearing has been told that LGBTI asylum seekers’ refugee applications are being processed under Papua New Guinea law – which punishes homosexuality with up to 14 years in jail
Papua New Guinea stilt houses
Photo by Toksave

Asylum seekers who have been told they can never resettle in Australia and are being held in camps in neighboring Papua New Guinea are having their asylum claims processed under local law – which punishes homosexuality with up to 14 years in jail.

During the hearing Labor Senator Lisa Singh asked Immigration and Border Control Secretary Martin Bowles whether he was aware of LGBTI asylum seekers being held in Papua New Guinea by Australian authorities who feared for their safety due to local laws that criminalize gay sex.

Bowles replied that LGBTI people who made asylum claims would be processed by Papua New Guinea authorities through their own legal process.

Bowles was also asked if he knew whether it had been forbidden for condoms to be distributed to detainees but told senators he was ‘unaware' if they had been or not.

Singh had been raising a number of issues around the treatment of LGBTI asylum seekers in the Australian run Manus Island asylum seeker detention camp inPapua New Guinea raised by Amnesty International in a December report.

Amnesty International reported that authorities knowingly sent gay refugees to Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island even after asking them if there is any reason they should not be sent there.

Amnesty International reports that gay refugees in detention have also been told that center stall must report them to the police if they engage in sex with other inmates.

Amnesty says that some of the LGBTI refugees who have legitimate claims to asylum over being persecuted for their sexuality are hiding their sexuality and making up other reasons for why they are seeking asylum because they want to avoid being prosecuted under Papua New Guinea law.

The Manus Island detention center for asylum seekers who try to reach Australia by boats was established by the previous Labor government and the policy of not exempting LGBTI asylum seekers from being sent to Papua New Guinea was begun by Labor as well.

The running of the camp is under increased scrutiny at the moment after a 17 February riot at the camp was violently put down – resulting in the death of a young Iranian man and many more sustaining injuries.

Some accounts of the violence say that Papua New Guinea police and local people armed with clubs entered the camp.

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