Ali Humayun wins his freedom

May 17, 2008

After more than three years of detention, on May 16 Ali Beg Humayun was told by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship he had been granted permanent residency.

Humayun, a queer Pakistani, has been locked up in Villawood Detention Centre for more than three years. He came to Australia as a student in 2000, enrolled at the University of Canberra and left in 2003. In January 2005, he was imprisoned in Villawood. In 2006, Humayun applied for asylum on the grounds of his sexual orientation, as homosexuality is illegal in Pakistan.

"No-one knows what a person such as me has to go through to come out of the closet", he said in a statement in May 2007. "All my life I have found it difficult to trust people [due] to years of sexual abuse at the hands of people entrusted by my family to take care of me.

"My father, for one, has disowned me and my elder brother is waiting for me to return so that he may 'take care of me' in the name of family honour."

Nevertheless, the Refugee Rights Tribunal (RRT) knocked back Humayun's application, telling him that he would be able to easily relocate to another part of Pakistan and live safely as long as he was "discreet" about his sexuality.

A federal Ombudsman report in August 2007 recommended that Humayun be released into the community while awaiting an appeal against the RRT decision in the High Court.

This did not happen, and activists from Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) kept campaigning for his release. Last October, the department threatened to deport Humayun even while he had a case in the Supreme Court against the government and Villawood management for negligence.

An overjoyed Rachel Evans from CAAH told Green Left Weekly that Humayun's release is a victory for all those fighting for justice for refugees.

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