From Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mauritania, Northern Nigeria, Sudan, Yemen… To Australia, Canada, England… Gay Refugees Face Prejudice Across the World
15th April 2008 18:20
Biplob Hossain, a gay refugee from Bangladesh who is seeking asylum in Australia, and Joaquin Ramirez, facing deportation to El Salvador, have highlighted the plight of gay men who flee their countries to escape persecution.
Mr Hossain, 25, moved to Australia on a student visa when he was 19.
He applied for asylum on the basis that he would suffer persecution in Bangladesh. He was placed in a detention centre for 29 months.
After three rejections by the Refugee Review Tribunal and a failed High Court bid, Mr Hossain is hoping for a personal intervention from the Minister for Immigration, Senator Chris Evans.
He was released from Villawood Detention Centre in October 2006, but is not allowed to work or collect social security benefits.
Sandi Logan, a spokesperson for the Immigration Department, told Australian SX News:
“A person’s sexual orientation does not of itself enable that person to be granted asylum.”
“We provide protection for asylum seekers under the UN definition of a refugee, under the Convention 67 protocol, which doesn’t include their sexual orientation or their fears of persecution associated with that orientation.”
Bangladeshi law states that gay sex acts are illegal and will be punished with deportation, fines and life imprisonment.
The national law itself is rarely directly enforced however there have been numerous reports of incidents of vigilantism.
People suspected of homosexuality have also been sentenced to death by a fatwa.
Meanwhile, in Canada, a gay man is facing deportation to his native El Salvador where he claims that three police officers who raped him are now out to kill him.
Joaquin Ramirez, a 39-year-old HIV-positive man said the accused perpetrators have visited his family and threatened to kill him because he infected them with the HIV virus.
Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board doubted Mr Ramirez’s claims, asking why he did not seek legal support in his own country when the incident occurred.
Mr Ramirez told Canadian newspaper The Star:
“How could I go to the same people and ask them to protect me when it’s those people who did this to me?”
Mr Ramirez worked as a volunteer outreach worker with the Young Men’s Christian Association and the Salvadoran Network of People Living with HIV.
He said he was picked on by three drunken officers at a restaurant in 2006 and driven to a plantation field where he was allegedly beaten and raped.
Five months later he claims a stranger called his sister and threatened to kill him for infecting them with the virus.
The refugee didn’t believe Ramirez left El Salvador because of the alleged assault as he had already planned to leave in November 2005.
The two stories come just weeks after the much published case of Iranian asylum seeker Mehdi Kazemi.
Mr Kazemi came to London in 2005 to study English but later discovered that his boyfriend had been arrested by the Iranian police, charged with sodomy and hanged.
The UK rejected his first asylum plea, but Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has now granted him a temporary reprieve from deportation while she reconsiders his case.
In 76 countries people face jail for having gay sex.
Homosexual acts officially carry the death penalty in several nations including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mauritania, northern Nigeria, Sudan, and Yemen.
In many Muslim countries, such as Bahrain, Qatar, Algeria and the Maldives, homosexuality is punished with jail time, fines, or corporal punishment.
In Egypt, openly gay men have been prosecuted under general public morality laws.
Some liberal Muslims, such as the members of the Al-Fatiha Foundation, accept and consider homosexuality as natural pointing out that the Qu’ran speaks out against homosexual lust, and is silent on homosexual love.
However, this position remains highly controversial even amongst liberal movements within Islam, and is considered beyond the pale by mainstream Islam.
The UK is a signatory to the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which means that it has a responsibility under international law not to return refugees to a place where they would face persecution.