African delegates from Melbourne AIDS conference seek asylum in Australia
At least 30 African delegates from last month’s International AIDS Conference in Melbourne are seeking asylum in Australia.
The delegates are staying in crisis accommodation, saying they are fleeing persecution in their home countries.
Radio Australia reports one of the delegates from Tanzania, who did not want to be identified, said he had received death threats for his work with people with HIV and albino children in his homeland.
Albinos in Tanzania have been known to be killed in murders linked to witchcraft.
HomeGround Services, which helps find crisis accommodation for homeless people in Melbourne, said 14 delegates from African nations – including Uganda and Tanzania – had sought their help.
“We’ve had 14 people so far come in,” spokeswoman Cathy Beadnell told AFP.
“Obviously they have nowhere to live at the moment. They are all moving towards making asylum claims.”
The Australian Government said it would not discuss individual applications.
“All claims for protection are considered on their individual merits and according to law,” a spokesperson added.
Speaking at last month’s conference, Bill Clinton warned that laws against same-sex activity throughout Africa and in many other parts of the world undermined the fight against HIV.
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“We need to redouble our efforts to combat stigma and prejudice,” the former US president said.
“Unbelievably, stigma is on the rise in some places.”
The law extended the previous maximum penalty of life imprisonment for anal intercourse to a mandatory life sentence for any same-sex act, even mere kissing and touching with another same-sex person.
It also introduced maximum sentences of five to seven years imprisonment for aiding, abetting, counselling or promoting homosexuality, including advocating LGBT rights and funding or assisting LGBT people or events.
Campaigners said the legislation makes it even harder for Uganda’s LGBT community to access HIV services.