Saudi Arabian journalists left in asylum seeking limbo

A Saudi Arabian journalist who is seeking asylum in Australia is being kept in detention due to “bureaucratic incompetence” according to his legal representative.

Sultan and Nassar* have been held by the Australian government for several months after claiming asylum. The two men fled Saudi Arabia in October claiming that they had been outed by the government who were cracking down on dissenting media.

Saudi Arabia has one of the worst records for LGBTI rights in the world, with people accused of same-sex relationships facing public whipping, torture and lifetime jail sentences or execution.

The two men arrived in Australia on a tourist visa, and told Australian officials upon their arrival that they were seeking asylum. They were immediately placed into detention.

The media, and LGBTIQ+ rights advocates, have been calling for their release, and the Greens recently successfully moved a motion in the senate highlighting the couple’s detention.

On Friday one of the two men, Nassar, walked free from detention, but Sultan is still being held.

The couple’s Australian lawyer says the situation is one of “bureaucratic incompetence”.

Authorities released Nasser on Friday allowing him to live within the Australian community while his claim is being accessed.

He was told that his partner of 20 years would be released today after he attended a scheduled medical appointment. It appears however that there has been some confusion over which of the two men were supposed to be released, and it has been suggested that Immigration Minister David Coleman had not been presented the most up-to-date information.

The couple’s legal representative says it’s an embarrassing situation for the Department of Immigration. Further complicating the situation is announcement that Immigration Minister David Coleman has now gone on leave for an indefinite period of time. Infrastructure Minister Alan Tudge is taking over his responsibilities.

The couple’s legal team say all submissions sent to Minister Coleman for finalisation have been returned to the Department, which is waiting on instructions from Minister Tudge as to how he prefers to be briefed and to receive submissions.

LGBTI rights advocates have slammed the federal government for bungling the release and have called on newly appointed replacement minister Alan Tudge to quickly take action.

Just.equal spokesperson, Ivan Hinton-Teoh, said, “It would be absolutely heartless for the Government to release one partner and not the other at a time when so many are looking forward to enjoying time with family.”

“The Government must release the detained partner immediately or be condemned for allowing failures in our bureaucracy to continue to persecute someone who has come seeking our protection.”

Hinton-Teoh said the men should never have been detained. “The two men have fled a regime that would have gaoled them, or worse, only to be gaoled by the country they hoped would give them freedom.”

“Now, for no other reason that a mistake in paperwork, the government has separated them again and appears to have no sense of urgency in correcting the error.”

“Australia should not do the Saudi Government’s job.” Hinton-Teoh said.

“Minister Alan Tudge, don’t look forward to your time with family while the government continues to separate Sultan from his for no greater reason than someone made a mistake in the paperwork.”

*The couples names have been changed to protect their identities. OUTinPerth has reached out to Minister Alan Tudge’s office. 

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