A Sydney queer rights group has spoken out against the treatment of a gay Tamil refugee who has been moved from Villawood Detention Centre to Melbourne after being physically assaulted.
Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) staged a small protest at Sydney Domestic Airport last week, demanding refugee Leela Krishna stay in Sydney where he has support from the local gay and lesbian community.
CAAH spokeswoman Rachel Evans said Krishna had been subjected to sexual harassment and homophobia inside the detention centre, including being assaulted by a fellow detainee, and had attempted suicide numerous times.
“This situation with Leela just shows just how inhumane mandatory detention is,” Evans told Sydney Star Observer.
“He has been given refugee status, he should be released into housing.”
Evans said she believes homophobia was at play when Krishna was assaulted in the maximum security section of Villawood Detention Centre in August.
It’s understood Krishna was granted refugee status by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship in April. However, after the assault he was told he would be moved to Melbourne because the housing section of the detention centre was only available for children and families.
Evans said the Department of Immigration and private centre operators Serco have a duty of care to better protect Krishna from being the target of homophobic abuse.
“They have a duty of care to make sure [detainees] are not physically assaulted because of their sexuality,” she said.
Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Mark Goudkamp told SSO Krishna’s case points to the “cruelty” of Australia’s mandatory detention system.
“I think he’s fairly open about his sexuality, his appearance is more, generally speaking, effeminate than your average bloke inside detention, so my understanding is there was an element of [homophobia] in the assault.”
“The fact that [the Immigration Department’s] policy that housing can only be for families, I guess you could say that is homophobic to an extent, because he’s automatically being excluded from the housing at Villawood because he doesn’t fit the nuclear family model.”
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said she was “disturbed” to hear about Krishna’s case and said the Government must improve its processing time for those granted refugee status.
“The Government’s approach has led to unacceptable delays in processing, which means that people are left languishing in detention,” she told SSO.
“Obviously Mr Krishna has relied on support from the LGBTI community and refugee supporters during his detention.
“It is concerning that due to being moved to Melbourne he will now not have access to the same groups and individuals.”