Bad Neighbour: Australia’s Asylum Policies and Homophobia

January 18, 2015 in General

Once again, Australia’s inhumane refugee and asylum policies have come under the spotlight, and with good reason.

In a chilling DNA article, Australian gay journalist Mason Green outlines the horrendous toll that gay Australian illegal refugees and asylum seekers face.   Most male asylum seekers are imprisoned on Manus Island, which is a dependency of Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guinea still bans male homosexuality, with a fourteen year imprisonment policy in place, yet gay asylum seekers are still imprisoned there and at risk of sexual assault, battery or other violence. Mason notes that Australia is in multiple violation of several internal treaties to which it has given assent- such as the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and Convention Against Torture.

In Australia, most  ’illegal’ immigrants arrive through people-smuggling boats, but Australia’s Migration Act 1958 clauses are in violation of UN Refugee Convention Clause 33, which forbids ‘refoulement.’ “Refoulement’ refers to returning someone to circumstances of substantive persecution, such as on the basis of religious, racist/ethnic, torture, political, sexual orientation or gender identity. Amnesty International Australia and the Australian Greens deplote this, but predictably, current Federal Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says that he has received no evidence of any problem with deportation of victimised gay asylum seekers to homeland context of homophobic persecution and repression.

Clearly, however, lesbian and gay asylum seekers are endangered by refoulement and Papua New Guinea’s antigay laws do not encourage closeted people to come out. Sexual assault, rape and survival sex are rife on Manus Island and conditions are predictably unsanitary and overcrowded.   Papua New Guinea is guilty of multiple human rights violations insofar as both the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary is concerned, such as rape and torture.  Nor is the current government in Port Moresby any more savoury- Transparency International rated it an appalling 150/176 on its governmental corruption chart- yet Australia still subsidises the Manus Island facility despite that, as well as providing foreign aid to Port Moresby.  The United Nations Human Rights Commission has already condemned Australia for multiple refugee and asylum policy violations, but cannot substantively intervene to halt the aforementioned abuses.   Nor will New Zealand or other Commonwealth nations or the United States intervene, unless asked. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, most Australians support current federal Australian asylum policy but are predictably uninformed about its true excesses and extent.  Education of wider Australian civil society is vital. Predictably too, the Australian Department of Immigration provided Mason Green and DNA with no assistance whatsoever in compiling this article.


Scott Mason: “Australian Horror Story: Asylum:” DNA 180 (December 2014): 66-71.

Amnesty International Australia:

Australian Greens:

Wikipedia: Corruption in Papua New Guinea:

“Making Their Own Rules: Police Beatings, Rape and Torture of Children in Papua New Guinea:


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