Gay asylum seekers fear persecution under Papua New Guinea’s anti gay laws
A Senate Committee has been told many detainees at the Papua New Guinea detention centre on Manus Island have changed their reasons for asylum to political or religious persecution in the belief that it will give them a better chance of asylum.
The information comes from a report conducted by Amnesty International which confirmed many gay asylum seekers fear that their sexuality would cause their claim to be rejected, as Papua New Guinea has harsh anti-gay laws which provide a 14 year sentence for consensual sex between same-sex couples.
Due to sovereignty issues, processing of claims at the Australian-run detention centre on Manus Island falls under Papua New Guinea law, therefore the Papua New Guinea government will also be assessing all claims.
Pressed by Labor Senator Lisa Singh as to whether there were any gay asylum seekers, Immigration and Border Control Secretary, Martin Bowles, told the Senate Committee there were none.
''Just to clarify though, there is no one on the island seeking asylum because of sexual orientation,'' Bowles said. ''There may be people with different sexual orientations, but they are not there for that reason.''
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young told the Sydney Morning Herald it was impossible for Mr Bowles to make this claim because none of the 1340 claims had yet been processed since the centre reopened in 2012.
''You can't say people are not claiming that, unless their claims are being assessed,'' she said.
Amnesty International who has interviewed several gay asylum seekers at the detention centre said many of the gay men questioned, were suffering from distress and anxiety and were afraid they would be turned over to the PNG police.
The report also found asylum seekers who claim asylum on the basis of sexual orientation are at risk in Papua New Guinea.
''The mere existence of these laws could put those who are claiming asylum on the basis of their sexual orientation at risk if they are to be resettled in Papua New Guinea.
''It also creates concerns for those within the centre, if they are accused of engaging in sexual activity,'' the report concluded.