Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has been presented with a petition, signed by over 120,000 people, calling on him to stop the deportation of a gay man from Brisbane to Pakistan.
The Greens this morning joined calls for Morrison to intervene, saying it would be “dangerous and irresponsible” to allow the man to be deported to a country where homosexual acts are illegal.
Photographer Ali Choudhry has been denied a partnership visa and could be deported to Pakistan as early as tomorrow despite being in a relationship with a Brisbane neuroscientist for four years. Choudhry, who grew up in the United States, has spent little time in Pakistan, has few contacts there and does not read the local language. Same-sex sexual acts are illegal in Pakistan and being openly gay there can lead to imprisonment.
Choudhry and his partner Matthew Hynd were one of the first gay couples in Queensland to register their civil union in March 2012 before the unions were annulled by the conservative Newman government.
Morrison rejected a request from Choudhry two weeks ago to overturn the Immigration Department’s decision, but supporters hope the minister will change his mind in response to public pressure.
Greens immigration spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young told Crikey: “Scott Morrison is proving himself to be callous and mean-spirited by denying Ali a visa. Minister Morrison is knowingly returning an openly gay man to a country where homosexuality is a punishable offence. This is both dangerous and irresponsible.
“Ali could face years of imprisonment simply because of his sexuality and that clearly puts him in danger … I will be appealing to the minister to intervene in this case to ensure that Ali and his partner can remain in Australia and continue to build their lives together.”
Since last Friday, over 120,000 people have signed a petition on GetUp’s “community run” website calling for him not to be deported. He was able to fund an application to the Migration Review Tribunal — that decision is still pending — through a crowdfunding campaign on Pozible.
GetUp spokesperson Matt Levinson says the petition has “gone crazy” since it was launched last week. “It is the fastest-growing and biggest ever on Community Run,” he said.
Ipswich computer programmer Paul Toner, who created the petition after his wife heard an ABC radio story on Choudhry’s plight, flew to Sydney this morning to deliver the petition to Morrison’s office.
“For me, this was clearly a case of someone facing great risk,” Toner told Crikey. “Being sent to Pakistan as an openly gay man puts you under threat. If they had been a heterosexual couple they would have been able to get married and this would never have happened … We’re hoping we can convince the Immigration Department or the minister to change their mind so Ali can stay.”
Morrison has not responded to requests for comment. A spokesperson previously said that same-sex couples are assessed no differently to heterosexual couples when it comes to immigration matters and that the criteria for a partnership visa extend beyond a genuine, ongoing relationship.
Choudhry and Hynd have said the department has not explained why their application for a partnership visa, submitted two years ago, was declined.
Choudhry, who originally came to Australia to study zoology, lost all his possessions in the 2011 Brisbane floods. Although he has spent most of his life in the US he is not an American citizen.