The global gay and lesbian community has been asked to help a gay refugee couple currently living in fear after the Australian Government’s punitive refugee policies have left them languishing on a tiny island where homosexuality is a crime.
Ashkan and Nima* fled Iran – where they risked public execution for being gay – in search of safety in a country that accepts gay people.
“I was told in Australia you could be free to be who you were, you could be openly gay and it would be safe,” said Nima.
But when he arrived in August 2013 to seek asylum and told Australian authorities about his homosexuality, he was sent to Australia’s detention centre on Nauru despite Australian authorities being aware of the risks.
“People from Immigration and Connect Settlement Services all tell us that we mustn't hold hands or be affectionate in public,” said Nima.
Both Ashkan and Nima’s asylum claims were processed on Nauru and they were found to be refugees and released to live on Nauru – an island which is only 21 square kilometres. However, after a number of physical attacks the couple are afraid to leave their unit, and only go out once a week to buy groceries with an escort provided by Australia's contractor Connect Settlement Services.
“Whilst we were still going outside, we got beaten up and were attacked. Spat at, verbally abused, had stones thrown at us and hit with sticks. It's been a horrible experience,” said Nima.
Having already made requests to the Australian Government to move the men, the Human Rights Law Centre is now partnering with international LGBT rights group All Out to launch a petition appealing to Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, to let the refugee couple settle in Australia.
HRLC’s Director of Advocacy and Litigation, Anna Brown, said under Nauruan law Ashkan and Nima risk being punished with 14 years of hard labour if they are found to have “carnal knowledge” of another man which the law states is “against the order of nature.”
“This situation and similar ones on Manus are just so wrong on so many levels. The Australian Government knowingly and deliberately allows gay men to be warehoused on tiny islands where they face assaults, prejudice and extremely harsh criminal penalties.
“This couple just want a home where they can be safe together and rebuild their lives. They don’t deserve to be living in limbo in a country where their love for one another is a crime, and their safety is threatened,” said Ms Brown.
Matt Beard, the Executive Director of All Out – a two million-member global movement fighting for LGBT rights – said Australia needs to bring is refugee policies into line with international standards.
“No one should have to suffer just for being in love. Nima and Ashkan’s story is another example of how cruel and inhumane Australia’s detention system is to those fleeing persecution. Prime Minister Turnbull has a responsibility to bring them to Australia where they’ll be safe, and to reform his government’s refugee policy to bring it into line with international standards,” said Mr Beard.
Ms Brown said the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and the Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, have the ability to bring the two men to Australia immediately.
“This has become unbearable and we are going mad. We can't see any future for ourselves here. We ask gay rights activists, human rights activists around the world and the Australian people to support us to get out of here. Please help, please help us," said Nima.
*Not their real names.
For further information, please contact:
Tom Clarke, HRLC’s Director of Communications, in Melbourne on +61 (0)422 545 763 or via firstname.lastname@example.org
Matt Beard, All Out’s Executive Director in New York (EST), +1 646 288 4528, email@example.com