Sunday, 22 August 2010

Iranian security forces threaten Iranian refugees in Turkey, says report

Coat of arms of the Islamic Republic of Iran. ...Image via WikipediaSource: Hürriyet Daily News

Iranian refugees in Turkey who have recently emigrated for political reasons are more vulnerable than Iraqi and Afghan refugees, according to a report. Security forces from Iran have often entered Turkey to pursue and terrorize asylum-seekers, said the report prepared by OMID Advocates for Human Rights.

The possibility of encountering Iranian security forces creates fear, suspicion and anxiety within the refugee population in Turkey said the report entitled “Report on the Situation of Iranian Refugees in Turkey.”

An OMID delegation interviewed Iranian refugees and asylum seekers as well as organizations to help these migrants in Turkey.

“Two refugees reported to the OMID’s delegation that they had been assaulted by Farsi-speaking men. Another refugee reported being questioned and threatened while in the hospital by representatives of the Iranian government stationed at a consulate in Turkey,” said the report.
Not only refugees in Turkey, but their families left in Iran have been threatened or arrested by the Iranian security forces, according to the report. Many refugees reported that their parents and other family members had been contacted, threatened or arrested in Iran.

Due to these ongoing threats and contacts by the security forces, many Iranian refugees reported high levels of stress, insomnia, migraines and other symptoms, suggesting a lack of psychological well-being and ongoing “re-traumatization,” said the report.

After Iraqis, Iranians make up the second largest group of asylum-seekers and refugees in Turkey with a total number of 4,312 as of February 2010, said the report. Although the registered number shows that the new arrivals from Iran have not changed since 2008, the report said there is evidence that the number of Iranians fleeing to Turkey has increased following the June 12, 2009 elections in Iran.

The report estimated that at least 2,000 unregistered Iranian refugees fled to Turkey between June and December 2009.

“Many of the Iranians who have fled to Turkey are unregistered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, and the lengthy and difficult process keeps many refugees from applying to the UN’s refugee agency,” according to the report. “Refugees know or soon realize that only 20 percent of all refugees in Turkey are ever resettled in third countries. This daunting figure would discourage anyone from attempting to enter the resettlement process with all of its aggravating complexities and no guarantee of ever being moved to a secure third country.”

These recent unregistered refugees have been single men and women between the ages of 20 and 35 who have fled to avoid political persecution due to mistreatment for their political opinions. They were often engaged in journalism, filmmaking or other media activities, including citizen journalism, documentary making, blogging, radio interviewing and internet campaigning back in Iran, and they did not just leave Iran to find better livelihoods in Turkey.

In Turkey, they lack support for their families, and there are very few internal and foreign nongovernmental organizations that provide financial assistance to them, said the report, adding that it is almost impossible for them to find a legal job in Turkey.

Although Turkish law allows refugees to work, it says many can only work in jobs for which a qualified Turkish national cannot perform. “This is why no asylum seeker is legally authorized to work in Turkey, and it is also known that they are pushed into a system of labor exploitation,” said the report.

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