The Department of Home Affairs has said a push to make seeking asylum easier for LGBTIQ refugees could lead to “large numbers” of refugees pretending to be gay.
The department’s warning was in response to a call from the federal Labor Party to make it easier for asylum seekers to meet the test for LGBTIQ persecution, The Courier-Mail reported.
Labor is set to debate its asylum seeker policy at its upcoming national conference, and the draft national party platform states that “in assessing asylum seeker claims where the fear of persecution arises from a person’s [LGBTIQ] status, the fact that the country the person is fleeing has criminal penalties for engaging in consensual homosexual sex is sufficient in itself to establish that fear of persecution is well-founded and any assessment of the asylum seeker’s identity and fear and must take account of the very different manifestations of [LGBTIQ] identity that other cultures, especially ones profoundly hostile to [LGBTIQ] people, necessarily engender”.
But a spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs told the publication, “Offering blanket protection to a group of individuals has the potential to encourage large numbers of unmeritorious applications from those who would seek to abuse the protection program to extend their stay in Australia.
“This would risk reducing public confidence in Australia’s humanitarian program and redirect resources from those applicants truly in need of protection.”
Labor immigration spokesperson Shayne Neumann told The Courier-Mail he wouldn’t speculate about what would be discussed at the party’s national conference.
“Labor supports offshore processing, regional resettlement and boat turnbacks when safe to do so because it saves lives at sea,” he said.
Australia’s Migration Act currently allows consideration of sexuality in determining the risk of persecution in an asylum seeker’s home country, but asylum seekers must produce evidence for their individual cases.
Fairfax Media reported in December on the lack of guidelines for authorities for dealing with LGBTIQ applicants, and the difficulties refugees can face in “proving” their sexuality.
Poor English, limited finances and ongoing struggles with their sexuality can mean LGBTIQ refugees have little involvement with gay organisations or nightlife in Australia, but face rejection by the tribunal without that kind of evidence, Fairfax reported.
Some applicants even resort to offering videos or images of themselves having sex to support their case.
A former Tribunal member who spoke to Fairfax Media anonymously said the use of gay stereotypes in asylum applications was dangerous because of a lack of safeguards to protect people from bad decisions, except an appeal to the Federal Court.
“There are no checks or curbs on these assumptions, with members given free rein to indulge whatever personal views they may hold when making decisions that can mean life and death in the most extreme cases,” he said.