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Saturday, 17 December 2011

Iranian asylum seeker hunger strikers win UK asylum

Source: Croydon Advertiser

Three Iranian asylum-seekers who staged a 37-day hunger strike have won their battle to remain in the UK.

The men demonstrated outside Lunar House, the UK Border Agency's headquarters in Wellesley Road, for nearly five weeks after their initial applications for asylum were turned down.

Keyvan Behari and brothers Mehran and Mahyar Meyari starved themselves in a desperate attempt to prevent deportation to Iran, where they feared torture and death for taking part in anti-Government protests.

But that prospect ended last week when the Home Office, presented with fresh evidence of torture, officially recognised the group as refugees.

Their lawyer Hani Zubeidi, head of immigration at Fadiga and Co, said "common sense" had prevailed.

He said:
"After months of waiting it took just a few short interviews for the Home Office to recognise these men would be persecuted if sent back to Iran. Any other outcome would have been preposterous."
Keyvan, 30, Mehran 20, and Mahyar, 17, are members of Green Wave Voice, a political movement in Iran which formed after the re-election of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009.

Keyvan was beaten by Iranian police after he was arrested during pro-democracy demonstrations.

Mayhar was 16 when he was arrested and raped, as the authorities cracked down on protesters.

After escaping from prison, the pair fled from Iran and across into Turkey, and then travelled across Europe, hidden in a truck for 17 days, before entering the UK.

But when they arrived, a legal representative supplied by the Home Office failed to provide evidence of their injuries to a judge.

When their applications were rejected Keyvan and Mahyar set up a tent outside Lunar House and stitched their lips together, refusing to eat.

After living on just sugar and water for 37 days, Mr Zubeidi took up their cases. He said:
"Their claim was based on their involvement in protests against the regime, but the way in which this was presented meant the Home Office didn't believe they were in genuine danger.
"One of the hunger strikers has a huge scar on his back that was never shown to the immigration judge."

"Out of desperation they were then forced to conduct a hunger strike. They should never have had to go through that."
After publicity of their cause by the Advertiser, Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell intervened, describing their case as "compelling".

He said:
"It was quite clear from the evidence on their bodies that they had been the victims of maltreatment.

"From the evidence I saw I believe justice has now been done."
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