Newsweek: PiS is focusing on sexual minorities in the election campaign. Would you undertake an asylum in Australia for homosexual people from Poland?
Piotr Ferenc *: I will start with the fact that people who would like to emigrate to Australia from Poland for political reasons come to us because they do not see the past in the country ruled by PiS or feel persecuted by this party. It begins to resemble the situation of the 1980s, when a lot of people left Poland in fear of martial law or after loosing the restrictions. Of course, today the situation in Poland is not as dramatic as in 1981, so arranging an asylum for political refugees would be extremely difficult and I would rather not undertake it.
When it comes to chewing on gay and transgender people, I admit that I am shocked. Also because so far I have been asked to arrange a stay in Australia mainly with gays from Indonesia or Malaysia, where shariah is partly obligatory and homosexuals really risk a lot. Now I also receive such requests from Poland.
I reached for the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees signed by Australia and various interpretations of this document. It turned out that Poles who would like to shelter in Australia from persecution because of their sexual orientation begin to come under the refugee status.
– This is not about specific cases, about which we read over and over again – that someone in Poland beat a gay, called a lesbian, or shouted that homosexuals should go to the gas. The basis for applying for protection is the fact that the Polish state does not provide such a minority with due protection. I hear that in Poland there is talk of LGBT-free zones. The ruling party scares homosexuals in the election campaign, and there is only a step from words to deeds.
Of course, matters relating to refugee status are very complicated worldwide and take years to handle. In the place of homosexuals who feel persecuted and would like to live in a normal country, I would apply in Australia for protection of the Australian state under international law obliging signatories to provide shelter to persecuted persons (visa protection).
– There are two groups of such visas. One is a visa for refugees, intended for people who have left their homeland or are somewhere abroad, but want to take refuge in Australia. The second is the so-called onshore protection visa, i.e. a visa providing protection for people who are already in Australia. For example, a gay man from Poland arrives in Australia on a tourist visa and applies for protection, arguing that he cannot return to Poland because he is being persecuted there – e.g. he is threatened with beatings, and the Polish state is not only unable to provide him with adequate protection, but fueling homophobia even more.
Which way to emigration is easier?
– Visa to protect people who are already in Australia. If someone comes to Sydney or Melbourne and asks for protection, no one will ever throw him out without considering the case. Such persons have the right to examine the application by the Emigration Office (visa number 866), and in the event of failure at first instance to be heard by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal or the Federal District Court. As a last resort, you can appeal in person to the immigration minister, who has the right to issue any visa he sees fit. I would undertake this type of case, because it can be won.
The chances are greater with the so-called onshore protection, because we have the right to appeal. People outside Australia do not fall under the jurisdiction of Australian law and therefore in most cases the immigration office’s decision is final.
It is also worth mentioning that refugee visas can be sponsored by Australian private individuals and organizations. Such cases have a greater chance of being approved and take less time than standard cases. I think that Polish gays and lesbians can be helped by Australian LGBT organizations
What type of evidence of persecution would have to be brought from Poland to receive protection in Australia?
– That’s a good question, because it’s usually difficult to prove. Only that when considering the application for a protective visa, the Australian Immigration Office does not check whether the person applying for the right to stay has suffered any specific harm, but whether the legal system in the home country protects him from persecution, or whether his fear of attacks and beatings is sufficient justified. It is definitely worth taking with you police reports refusing to intervene, photos from forensics, photos or videos showing violence towards a given person and the entire community, correspondence with state offices that refused to help or support for reasons.