Australia “becoming impenetrable” for LGBTI asylum seekers

AustraliaNew legislation could put LGBTI refugees in danger, say experts.

On Dec 17, 2014 Star Observer (Australia) reported: THE government’s new asylum seeker laws could see genuine LGBTI refugees deported to oppressive regimes, refugee advocates and legal experts have claimed.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson has confirmed he was actively raising the issue of the repatriation of LGBTI refugees with senior ministers.

At a recent Sydney event organised by the Human Rights Law Centre to discuss government policy towards LGBTI asylum seekers, a panel of experts criticised provisions in the new Migration and Maritime Powers Bill.

The bill, which also reintroduced temporary protection visas, became law on December 5.

Human Rights Law Centre legal advocacy director Daniel Webb said the new legislation “throws out the rule book” by excising all references to the UN Refugee Convention.

He was particularly scathing on an increase in the circumstances asylum seekers could now be returned to their country of origin.

“What that means for gay asylum seekers is that… if there is some far-flung corner of their home country where they can hide out for the rest of their lives and avoid the persecution they fled they’ll do that,” Webb said.

“They may not speak the language in that part of the country, they may have no family connections, nowhere to live, no ability to find work, it could be completely unreasonable to expect them to go to that country but… they will be returned.”

Webb also criticised the removal of the right of to appeal for refugees saying the move introduced “administrative short cuts into life or death decisions”.

Up to 70 per cent of rejections that are appealed are overturned, said Webb, “so rather than improving the process we are removing access to the tribunal that corrects those mistakes”.

Senior Solicitor and Migration Agent at the Refugee Advice and Casework Service, Jemma Hollonds, said “almost all the cases” they saw were rejected in the first instance.

Neil Grungras, founder of ORAM International, an organisation that advocates for LGBTI refugees, said the new laws meant Australia was “well on its way to becoming impenetrable for LGBT asylum seekers”.

He also said many LGBTI refugees faced bigotry from their own communities even when they reached Australia.  Continued

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