The Department of Home Affairs has raised fears of “large numbers” of refugees pretending to be gay in order to seek asylum in Australia.

The department’s warning is in response to a push from liberal factions of the Labor Party to make seeking asylum easier for LGBTI refugees, The Courier-Mail has reported.

“Offering blanket protection to a group of individuals has the potential to encourage large numbers of unmeritorious applications from those who would seek to abuse the protection program to extend their stay in Australia,” said a Home Affairs spokesperson.

“This would risk reducing public confidence in Australia’s humanitarian program and redirect resources from those applicants truly in need of protection.”

The Migration Act currently allows consideration of sexuality in determining the risk of persecution in an asylum seeker’s home country, but the burden of evidence demanded is often high and bizarre.

The Sydney Morning Herald last year reported cases of gay refugees being denied asylum because they did not know enough about Madonna or Oscar Wilde, or because they were not effeminate enough.

Some asylum seekers have resorted to producing photos of themselves in gay bars or even having sex to prove they are gay.

Labor is set to discuss its policies around asylum seekers at its upcoming national conference.

The draft platform says that “in assessing asylum seeker claims where the fear of persecution arises from a person’s [LGBTI] status, the fact that the country the person is fleeing has criminal penalties for engaging in consensual homosexual sex is sufficient in itself to establish that fear of persecution is well-founded and any assessment of the asylum seeker’s identity and fear and must take account of the very different manifestations of [LGBTI] identity that other cultures, especially ones profoundly hostile to [LGBTI] people, necessarily engender”.

Labor immigration spokesperson Shayne Neumann would not speculate about what would be discussed at the conference.

“Labor supports offshore processing, regional resettlement and boat turnbacks when safe to do so because it saves lives at sea,’’ he said.

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