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Greens senator Janet Rice slams treatment of gay Saudi journalists in Australian detention

A motion has been passed in the Australian Senate calling for recognition that two gay journalists from Saudi Arabia are at increased risk while they remain in detention as asylum seekers.

Greens senator Janet Rice brought the motion, while news organisations around the world have warned the Australian government they are watching the case, The Guardian has reported.

The motion, which urges ensuring the safety of the pair and expediting assessment of their asylum claim, was supported by Labor, Centre Alliance, and independent senator Jacquie Lambie.

The couple, whose home country penalises homosexuality by death, were detained at an Australian airport last month when they arrived on valid visas and have remained in immigration detention since.

They have reported being threatened with violence by other detainees and intimidated by guards, comparing the experience to their treatment in Saudi Arabia.

“We ran away from being detained arbitrarily and jailed for no reason, only to arrive in Australia and find ourselves here in jail,” one of the men said.

“We’ve been threatened with it in Saudi but it never actually happened until we came here.”

Senator Rice welcomed the passage of the motion and condemned the treatment of the asylum seekers.

“When these journalists liken their treatment in Saudi to the violence they have experienced here in Australia, it should be a wake-up call,” she said.

“The government should act swiftly to reflect the view of the Senate on this matter and uphold the values of fairness and diversity that our country says we stand for.”

International media organisations have written to the Australian government calling for protection of the men.

“This is unjust treatment of two journalists who travelled to Australia seeking protection from the persecution they faced as gay men in Saudi Arabia,” wrote Mark MacKinnon of The Globe and Mail in Canada.

“I hope you can intervene to ensure they are released from detention – they have valid visas to visit Australia – so that they can pursue their asylum claim.”

Activist group No Pride in Detention have regularly spoken out about the treatment of LGBTIQ asylum seekers by the government, demanding an end to the “suffering” and discrimination allegedly occurring in immigration detention.

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