• File: Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. (AAP Image/Joel Carrett)Source: AAP Image/Joel Carrett
The Greens have described the government as 'profoundly cruel' for giving LGBT+ asylum seekers the choice of returning home or settling in Papua New Guinea if they fail to qualify for a resettlement arrangement with the United States.
By
Ben Winsor

24 May 2017 - 3:52 PM  UPDATED 24 May 2017 - 3:52 PM

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton will not entertain calls by the Australian Greens to resettle LGBT+ asylum seekers in Australia after the Manus Island detention center closes in October this year.

“The minister has made the position regarding those in Manus crystal clear innumerable times,” a spokesman for Minister Dutton’s office told SBS.

Minister Dutton has said that no-one from the centre would be resettled in Australia.

“Nothing has changed – nothing will change,” the spokesman said.

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In Senate Estimates on Monday, Greens Senator Nick McKim raised concerns about the “impossible choice” for gay asylum seekers in Manus Island.

Asylum seekers could be forced to settle in Papua New Guinea or return to their country of origin if they are not accepted under a controversial resettlement deal with the United States.

Gay sex is illegal in Papua New Guinea and in many asylum seekers’ home countries – a fact the Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection acknowledged in Senate Estimates yesterday.

In a back and forth with Senator McKim, Secretary Michael Pezzullo said the issue of LGBT+ asylum seekers was a matter for Papua New Guinea.

“They’re not there under our Migration Act,” he said.

“They were transferred there as a matter of policy and by way of mutual agreement, but their current legal status is that they reside in PNG under a matter of PNG law.”

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Mr Pezzullo said he was aware of the law in Papua New Guinea – seeking to clarify that it was it the ‘act of homosexuality’ that was punishable.

“I think that’s the more precise word,” he said. 

The Secretary brought up the distinction again in a later exchange with Liberal Senator Ian Macdonald.

"That is itself the transgression, rather than your self-identification as a gay person," he said.

"So self-identification as such would not lead to 14 years in jail in PNG?" Senator Macdonald asked.

"On the face of it, I do not think that would arise," Mr Pezzullo responded.

Mr Pezzullo said there were a number of LGBT+ asylum seekers on the island, but didn’t have a precise figure.

The Greens today renewed their attack.

“The government is being profoundly cruel.  Many of these men have fled their home country because of their sexuality, so going home is not an option,” said Greens LGBT+ spokeswoman, Senator Janet Rice.

“Australia is a place that openly accepts lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex and transgender (LGBTIQ) people,” she said.

“It’s time to bring these men to Australia so they can be who they are without fearing for their lives.”

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