Jan 7, 2014

Memo to Scott Morrison: don’t deport gay man to Pakistan

The Greens have joined in a last-ditch bid to stop a gay man being deported to Pakistan. Ali Choudhry could be forced to leave his Brisbane-based partner as early as tomorrow.

Matthew Knott

Former Crikey media reporter

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.

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6 thoughts on “Memo to Scott Morrison: don’t deport gay man to Pakistan

  1. Rena Zurawel

    It is also very dangerous to send back little children back to Pakistan. There are American drones there

  2. Crikey Reader

    Lots of information missing about this case:

    1) “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.”

    Does he have a US passport or long term US visa? If he does, then he could be removed to the US instead of Pakistan. If not, was he not eligible? Is there a reason why the US refused to give him permanent residency/citizenship?

    2) “Choudhry and Hynd have said the department has not explained why their application for a partnership visa, submitted two years ago, was declined.”

    Everyone that is refused gets a rejection letter and a written statement as to why they were refused. All he needs to do is request a copy from the department.

    It sounds like there are reasons that Choudhry does not want to disclose to the public, which are probably the reasons why he was refused. I think that needs to be disclosed before they engage the public to rally for his cause.

    3) “Morrison rejected a request from Choudhry two weeks ago to overturn the Immigration Department’s decision… ‘ and “Greens immigration spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young told Crikey: “Scott Morrison is proving himself to be callous and mean-spirited by denying Ali a visa”

    Senator Hanson-Young should have been briefed that Ministerial Intervention powers, which is what Mr Morrison would use to overturn the decision, can only be considered if the MRT upholds the department’s decision to refuse the case. Since the case has not been decided by the MRT, of course the Minister can’t use his powers.

    Imagine if the Minister had to personally look into every case when there are other bodies (eg MRT) that can deal with it. I’d rather have him deal with bigger picture issues.

    4) If Choudhry is worried about being persecuted if he is removed back to Pakistan, then he should consider lodging a protection visa. Again, it is the protection visa officer who would be in a position to assess whether his refugee claims would stand.

  3. AR

    Choudry may not be an amerikan citizen but surely, having lived there most of his life, he has the safe haven of the “green card”, unless than has expired due to his long residence in Oz?
    Interesting that Immigration has not given even a pro forma ‘reason’ for the visa refusal – couldn’t possibly be owt to do with Morriscum’s religious nuttery, which would be unexceptional in deepest talibanistan, could it?

  4. AR

    Crikey Reader is well informed – couldn’t be former DIMIA flak Sandman could it? All the points well made & pertinent, which makes mine otiose.

  5. Crikey Reader

    Not sure if it’s a compliment or not because I have no idea who Sandman is. But to answer your question, I’m not Sandman. I’m a noob on Crikey who has some idea of migration law 🙂

    I feel I need to expose pertinent points about the case so that the reader has a better understanding of the issues and what is missing. That’s all. For instance, based on articles elsewhere on the Internet, public support has been so strong as it has been portrayed as a struggle against perceived discrimination against gay people. However it is likely that the decision had nothing to do with it, and I think the public should be aware of that. By all means, garner support, but Choudhry, the petition maker and media outlets need to be very clear about the reason for refusal and report in a balanced way.

    People like Senator Hanson-Young have a responsibility to understand the facts before weighing in with their opinion. She no doubt dislikes the Minister’s policies, but as a high profile politician she should be more informed about what can and can’t be done when issuing public statements.

    I don’t think it’s right to manipulate public opinion to support their case based on alleged discrimination if there isn’t any. You can paint immigration as discriminatory if you want, but have the decency to provide some sort of evidence (eg explain your personal situation and refusal reason and why you think it’s wrong more clearly).

    Regardless, I do wish Choudhry the best of luck with his visa and hope that he is able to get a positive result from the MRT. It is no doubt a stressful time for he and his partner. The MRT will have the full facts in front of them when a new decision is made, and hopefully will make an informed, impartial decision. Not one based on incomplete information that the public has.

  6. ken oath

    From the information I’ve managed to put together from the net, it seems he was here on a student visa and then the QLD floods meant he had to move. He is claiming that the renewal paperwork for the student visa was sent to the old address and not received by him (because he had moved), and so the visa expired and he became an illegal, so to speak.

    He re-applied for the student visa but was turned down and told he had to leave. Maybe because he was not essentially a student anymore and is fully involved in his own photography business. They then applied for the partner visa.

    Also with knowledge of migration law, applying for another type of visa while in the country on an expired visa is a recipe for disaster. If you are in the country on an expired visa, you need to leave, as you have been asked to do, and reassess the situation from outside the country. This is your best chance of getting back in.

    These two seem to have an air of entitlement about them, especially since they have conveniently not told the entire truth – yes, they would know exactly why they have been denied – which puts me ill at ease with social media taking up the cause purely to manipulate public perception.

    I have every faith in immigration officials.

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