Gay Saudi journalists detained in Australia after asylum bid

Gay Saudi journalists detained in Australia after asylum bid
Two Saudi journalists, US coalition, psychologically,
2 min read
20 November, 2019
The two men are being held in detention centre [Getty]

Two gay Saudi journalists who have sought asylum in Australia are being detained in an immigration detention centre, their lawyer said.

The couple arrived in Australia in mid-October on a tourist visa before they were taken into detention by airport customs officials when they admitted plans to seek asylum, lawyer Alison Battisson told AFP.

"Australia being very well known for being... a safe place for LGBTI people, they were incredibly surprised and distressed," she said.

One of the men worked for Saudi Arabia's information ministry and regularly assisted visiting international news organisations.

He said the couple came under pressure from authorities after a dissident leaked sensitive documents to foreign media.

"I was called into a prison on the outskirts of Riyadh by the state security," he told ABC, adding they "hinted that they realised I was in a relationship with my partner and that I should stop working with the foreign media".

Battisson said the men had not leaked any documents, but were swept up in a wider crackdown by Saudi authorities in the wake of Khashoggi's murder.

In August, one of the men received a phone call from a relative who warned that if he didn't end his gay relationship with his partner he would be killed.

Homosexuality is punishable by death and when police followed that up with separate calls asking them to come in for questioning they decided to flee the country.

Battisson said two men have been separated in detention where one is receiving medical treatment, while another is among convicted criminals awaiting deportation. 

The conditions are proving "psychologically very difficult".

"Them speaking up is actually their right - there's no reason we should remain silent about human rights abuses in Australia," she said.

The home affairs department, which oversees immigration matters, and the Australian Border Force did not respond to requests for comment.