The appellants, both homosexual male citizens of Bangladesh, arrived in Australia and applied for protection visas. To be recognized as refugees, the appellants had to show that they had a well-founded fear of being persecuted due to their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. The appellants argued that they belonged to a “particular social group” that was subject to discrimination and harm in Bangladesh by virtue of their homosexuality. A delegate of the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship initially determined that because the appellants had conducted their relationship in a discreet manner in Bangladesh, they would suffer no serious harm if they returned to Bangladesh and continued to keep their relationship secret. For this reason, appellants were initially denied protection visas, and the Refugee Review Tribunal affirmed this decision. The appellant’s appealed to the Federal Court for judicial review and the primary judge dismissed the application, agreeing with the delegate’s reasoning about the discreetness of the appellants’ relationship. Appellants appealed to the Full Federal Court, which also dismissed their appeal. Appellants then appealed to the High Court, which granted them special leave to appeal. The High Court considered whether the Tribunal had erred in requiring or expecting the appellants to behave discreetly in order to avoid persecution. In a four-to-three decision, the High Court found that the Tribunal had erred because it improperly split the social group of homosexual men into two groups, discreet and non-discreet. The High Court held that the expectation that a person take reasonable steps to avoid persecutory harm, does not include the need to be discreet about sexuality, especially given that the appellants may have only been acting discreetly due to the persecution of openly homosexual men in Bangladesh. The case was referred back to the Tribunal for redetermination.
Appellant S395/2002 v. Minister of Immigration and Citizenship