Written By Dean Arcuri | Photo by Shotinraww
Arriving in Australia on valid tourist visas, gay Saudi Arabian journalists Sultan and Nassar* intended to start a new life free from persecution. They came seeking asylum.
But standing at the airport at customs, the entrance to a new life was stolen from them They were handcuffed, put into a van and taken to a detention centre where they have remained under guard for over two months.
Speaking to Star Observer from detention, Sultan describes what life is like in an Australian detention centre: “In the last 24 hours, guards have been checking on us every half hour. They are concerned for our safety.”
Days before another detainee started calling Sultan ‘his bitch’ and threatened to fight with him. The guards have kept the couple on continuous watch ever since. “We just want this time to pass, to be granted visas and to put this awful experience behind us,” he said. “We’ve been threatened at home with imprisonment, but it didn’t happen until we came to Australia.”
From the day of their arrival the couple received threats from other detainees and were forced to sleep in stairwells. “There’s a lot of drug activity in detention with people on crystal meth. We were assigned to these people’s rooms but they wouldn’t let us stay, so we slept where we could.” Sultan recounts.
“About 80% of the people in detention with us had visas, committed crimes and after serving their sentence are awaiting deportation. The rest are like us who have committed no crimes”
“Every day, we wake up and ask ourselves is this is the day a guard will get us and we will be
granted our bridging visa?”
It’s possible that the couple may spend their new year imprisoned in detention as they continue to wait for release. “When you commit a crime and go to prison, you know your release date. Our situation, like other asylum seekers in detention centres around Australia, is that we haven’t been in front of a judge, gone to trial or even been charged with a crime. We don’t know when this will end. We are just stuck.” “We thought we were coming to country of freedom and democracy where people get a chance to live a happy life. We have yet to experience that.”
(Sultan and Nassar’s* names are changed to protect their identities)