Australian government has bungled the release of two gay Saudi asylum seekers in detention

gay Saudi asylum

One of the two gay Saudi journalists who sought asylum in Australia has been forced to remain alone in detention following a ‘clerical error’ by the federal government, the pair’s lawyer claims.

The two men, known by the pseudonyms Sultan and Nassar, fled Saudi Arabia after Sultan was interrogated by authorities. He was allegedly outed to his family and received veiled threats about he and his partner’s relationship.

Fearing for their safety in a country where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death, the men sought asylum in Australia. They were held in a detention centre where they said they were “treated like criminals”, violently threatened by other detainees and intimidated by guards.

Following sustained pressure from global news organisations, Nassar was released from detention on Friday, December 13. But immigration minister David Coleman neglected to sign Sultan’s paperwork before unexpectedly going on indefinite personal leave the same day, according to LGBT+ advocacy group Just.equal.

Speaking from detention, Sultan said the error “amounts to cruel and unusual punishment for seeking a safe existence”.

“Being separated over a clerical error has added unnecessary suffering as we approach the Christmas season,” he told QNews. “Nassar has said he wishes he did not get released so that we would at least be together.

“Despite the mental anguish of our separation, I’m pleased I’m inside instead of him.”

Just.equal spokesperson Ivan Hinton-Teoh said that only releasing one partner would be “absolutely heartless at a time when so many are looking forward to enjoying time with family”.

He urged authorities to release Sultan immediately, “or be condemned for allowing failures in our bureaucracy to continue to persecute someone who has come seeking our protection”.

But the Australian government will soon shut down for Christmas, and only the signature of recently-appointed acting minister Alan Tudge can reunite the pair.

Just.equal has launched an urgent call for Tudge not to go on his Christmas holidays until he has freed Sultan.