The Australian Greens have called for the federal government to release two gay journalists who fled Saudi Arabia and are in Australian immigration detention.
The pair, known only under the pseudonyms Sultan and Nassar, fled after Saudi authorities allegedly outed them. The couple claimed they were caught up in a crackdown on “dissenting” media.
The men arrived in Australia in mid-October on tourist visas. However, they were immediately detained after telling airport customs officials they planned to seek asylum.
They were taken to an immigration detention centre where they’ve remained for several weeks, according to their lawyer.
Greens LGBTIQ spokesperson Senator Janet Rice said the pair “had no choice but to flee and seek asylum here.”
“Being gay is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia,” Senator Rice said.
“It’s unconscionable that Australia is treating them like criminals when the supposed ‘crime’ was loving each other.
“These men were fleeing a country that would lock them up, in appalling conditions, for an indefinite period of time.
“[They arrived] in Australia to find even worse treatment here.
“When these journalists liken their treatment in Saudi to the violence they have experienced here in Australia, it should be a wake-up call to our government.”
Department says decisions are made on a ‘case-by-case basis’
Homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.
Greens immigration spokesperson Senator Nick McKim called on the Australian government to release Sultan and Nassar from detention.
“These men must be released in Australia while their claims for asylum are assessed,” he said.
“This case shows Australia desperately needs immigration reform, with human rights front and centre.”
A Department of Home Affairs spokesperson said the department does not comment on individual cases.
The spokesperson said placement decisions within an immigration detention facility are made on a case-by-case basis.
Applications for protection visas are assessed by highly-trained officers, the spokesperson said.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also called on the Australia government to show “decency” and grant the men asylum.
The organisation said it wrote to Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton on November 6 on the case but have not received a reply.
“The welcome that Australia has given these two Saudi journalists is absolutely disgraceful,” RSF’s Asia-Pacific head Daniel Bastard said.
“We urge home affairs minister Peter Dutton to ensure that they are given bridging visas so that they can be granted asylum.”
At the weekend, LGBTIQ group just.equal launched a petition calling for the Saudi men to be released on bridging visas.
“The Morrison Government needs to understand that anti-LGBTI prejudice in some parts of the world is extreme and life-threatening,” spokesperson Brian Grieg said.
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