A petition campaign to support the visa application of Ali Choudry generated huge support in a matter of hours in January.

Ali is an openly gay Pakistani man who applied for a partner visa, recognising his long-term relationship with his partner, Matthew Hynd. The application was rejected and as a result Ali’s ability to stay in Australia was in doubt.

Over 140,000 people signed the online petition. The response shows the support that exists for LGBT rights and the rights of refugees and immigrants, and has exposed the racism and homophobia of the Immigration Department.

Gaining a partner visa is notoriously difficult for same-sex and heterosexual couples alike, due to the bureaucratic tyrannies and racist attitudes faced in order to prove their claims to the Immigration Department.

For LGBT asylum seekers the situation is even worse. Research by Senthoran Raj into the asylum claim decision-making process for gay asylum seekers has shown assessors often make decisions based on stereotypes about gay identity and culture, such as music taste or involvement in the gay community, and the degree to which someone has been open about their sexuality where they came from—even if it was illegal.

In 2011, a lesbian asylum seeker from Uganda had her claim rejected because Immigration officials decided she “had merely adopted the persona of a homosexual” for a protection visa.

Notoriously, the PNG solution means that LGBT asylum seekers can be sent to a country where homosexuality is illegal and can attract a 14-year jail sentence.

A December 2013 report by Amnesty International revealed Immigration officials told asylum seekers on Manus Island that they will be reported to police if they engage in “homosexual relations” while in detention. Mandatory reporting is not a requirement under PNG’s laws.

By Amy Thomas

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