by Harley Dennett
KERRY NETTLE WILL CHAMPION A GAY VILLAWOOD DETAINEE WHO FEARS BEING KILLED TO PRESERVE FAMILY HONOUR. SSO WAS INVITED TO JOIN HER VISIT TO MEET HIM.
Greens senator Kerry Nettle has met with a Villawood detainee in a same-sex relationship who claims his brother would kill him to preserve the family honour if he returned to Pakistan.
Nettle is used to visiting detention centres around Australia, a long-time advocate for those in the care of the state.
But even she was surprised during Friday’s visit to find 26-year-old Ali Humayun behind three barbed wire fences in the maximum security Stage One for people who have previously spent time in prison.
“Ali is just a sweet kid, he doesn’t have a criminal record, he doesn’t belong in there,” Nettle said.
Humayun’s placement in Stage One is due to an anonymously written note to the centre’s staff alleging his intention to escape.
Nettle intends to take up the matter at senate estimates later this month, but said his placement in Stage One is just one of many troubling facets of the case.
“If Ali had been represented, the matter would probably have been cleared up at the Migration Review Tribunal, and if not then at the Refugee Review Tribunal,” Nettle said.
“If this matter had been dealt with properly Ali would have graduated and be working in IT by now.”
In rejecting the application for a protection visa, RRT member Giles Short wrote he believed Humayun’s claim of having a homosexual relationship while in detention was “contrived”.
“Having regard to the fact that the only real relationship he claims to have had with a man began after he was detained, I do not accept that the applicant is in fact bisexual in sexual orientation as he claims,” Short wrote.
“I consider that his relationship is simply the product of the situation where only partners of the same sex are available and says nothing about his sexual orientation.
“I am not satisfied that the applicant’s conduct in telling his family about his claimed bisexuality and his claimed relationship was engaged in otherwise than for the purpose of strengthening his claim to be a refugee.”
In 2000, before he was an applicant refugee behind a series of six-metre high fences, Humayun was a Pakistani national in Australia on a student visa to obtain a diploma in information technology. A year later he was accepted into a bachelor program at the University of Canberra.
Troubled by events from his past, Humayun said he became depressed and failed a semester in 2002, threatening his student visa. Humayun said the faculty accepted his explanation and his grades improved, but the immigration department still moved to cancel his visa.
“It was just 20 minutes into the meeting with immigration that my visa was cancelled,” Humayun said.
Caught working on a bridging visa, Humayun was brought to Villawood, and initially placed in the less secure Stage Two.
After the anonymous letter led to his being moved to Stage One, Humayun began a relationship with fellow detainee Julio Lorenzo.
“The other [detainees] knew we were together because we shared a bed every night. They’d get drunk on smuggled alcohol and yell ‘faggot’ at us,” Humayun said.
“I came out to my family, but the reaction wasn’t good. My mother and sister support me, but my father and brother are very fundamentalist Muslim.”
Humayun claimed his brother would attempt to “take care of him” in the name of the family honour if he returned to Pakistan.
The couple were separated a few months ago when Lorenzo was granted a permanent visa. He continues to visit Humayun several times a week.
Holding hands with Humayun under the table during Nettle’s meeting, Lorenzo said he was not allowed to be present at the RRT hearing that dismissed his and Humayun’s relationship.
Humayun did not have a lawyer present at his appeal to the MRT, and did not feel his Legal Aid-appointed representative at the RRT did enough to push his case.
“Going back would never be easy; it’s not an option,” Humayun said.
Humayun came to the attention of Nettle after he sent a letter detailing his plight to activist group Communication Action Against Homophobia. The group smuggled a camera phone into the detention centre to take pictures of the couple and have arranged regular visits of support.