There are grave concerns for LGBT asylum seekers who travel to Australia by boat after the government announced that any future boat arrivals would be resettled in Papua New Guinea (PNG) rather than Australia.
Papua New Guinea jails people for homosexual acts for up to 14 years and LGBT and intersex rights group Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) condemned Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for the new policy announcement.
‘This is a humanitarian disaster,’ CAAH co-convener Cat Rose said.
‘Australia has resettled a number of gay refugees who have arrived on our shores, recognizing the reality of danger that homophobic persecution has put them in their home country.’
‘It was bad enough when they were locked up, interrogated and challenged about their sexuality by our government. But now they are going to have to plead their case as refugees in a country that can imprison them for the reason they give for fleeing. The Australian government has been more than happy to prop up a reactionary and homophobic government as it continues to act as PNG’s colonial overlord, it should take full blame for the situation there.
‘Lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex people report difficulty finding employment and facing societal stigma in PNG, where illegality forces homosexual life underground. To make matters worse PNG has a high prevalence of AIDS, but people live in fear of seeking testing due to the illegal status of their sex lives.
‘It is an absolute disgrace. Rudd’s support for marriage equality will mean little if he banishes those of us unlucky enough to be born in countries that persecute us to this kind of life.’
CAAH is organizing a ‘pink block’ of LGBT and intersex people and supporters to attend an emergency rally against Rudd’s refugee policy on Sunday at 12pm at the Sydney Town Hall.
The Australian Government has already told a group of 81 Iranians that they will never be able to settle in Australia and must live in Papua New Guinea instead.
Department of Immigration and Citizenship acting regional manager Steven Karras said the new arrivals listened calmly to the message – though footage released by the Australian Government shows asylum seekers openly weeping.
‘In this case, the message we did give them was quite clear, in terms of where they will be processed and I think that probably sank in a bit,’ Karras said.
Karras said a number of the asylum seekers said that if they’d known the rules had changed, they wouldn’t have come to Australia on a people smuggler’s boat.
‘It was apparent to me that they did understand what this message meant,’ Karras said, ‘I’m sure they’re now thinking about whether it was wise to come in the first place.’
‘And I think in fact over the coming days they will start to contemplate very seriously whether in fact returning home is a better option.’
Iran punishes homosexuality with the death penalty and frequently carries out executions.