Queer refugees in lockdown on Manus Island

November 14, 2014
The queer community in Australia has always stood up for refugees.

As refugee rights groups begin to form ties with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex asylum seekers on Manus Island, the LGBTI community in Australia is starting to stand up for their rights.

Activists have organised a refugee rights float for the Perth Pride parade and a Facebook page "End the Queer Lockdown on Manus Island" is also gathering steam.

LGBTI asylum seekers detained on Manus Island face the possibility of a 14-year prison term under Papua New Guinea’s laws if they disclose their sexual orientation or engage in any sexual activity.

This is exactly what they escaped their home country to avoid. This is leading to despair, depression, and suicide attempts.

The queer community in Australia has always stood up for refugees. Although many legitimate queer refugees were knocked back before the PNG solution, it was at least possible to claim asylum on the basis of homophobic persecution. The queer community is taking a stand again because the PNG solution sends queer refugees back to square one.

The criminalisation of homosexuality in Papua New Guinea means the Manus refugees cannot seek asylum on the basis of homophobic or transphobic persecution. If they cannot say what they have fled from, they cannot pursue their claim. The Manus refugees have also been denied condoms. This is in breach of Australia's national HIV strategy and undermines Australia's HIV/AIDS assistance efforts in PNG.

Refugees detained onshore can at least join the queer community in Australia. LGBTI Australians visit them, welcome them and can verify that they are queer to the Refugee Review Tribunal. Detention on Manus Island places them beyond the reach of a supportive community.

Nevertheless, they have not been forgotten. We are here for them for as long as they need us.

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