To: The UN, the UNHCR, UNPO, US State Department, US and Canadian Heads of State, US Senators, the EU, NGOs:
Today we received a letter from Iran from former asylum seekers whom had been registered in Turkey. In 2012, after being given a UN interview appointment date for late 2014, this refugee family was forced to return to Iran. They had no financial means of support in Turkey during the long waiting process. Upon their arrival in Iran they were arrested and one of the refugees has been imprisoned for the last two and a half years. No charges have been filed against the individual and they remain incarcerated with no prospect of being released any time in the near future.
The length of time it takes refugee cases to be processed in Turkey, Iraq and other countries is unbearable for many. We have approached the UNHCR about this problem before and were assured that processing times would be reduced to a reasonable time frame. This occurred for a few months and then reverted back to 13, 15, 18 months and longer. After acceptance, the resettlement process is initiated. This extends the process even further as applicants to the USA and Canada are made to wait for security checks, which used to take five to eight months but, are now taking 18 to 36 months and longer in some cases. This is completely unacceptable. These people aren’t criminals, they are vulnerable and in dire need of protection and safe resettlement.
We request again that the United Nations speed up this process and that the United States and Canada speed up the security screening process. The extended delays are abusive and they are taking a toll on innocent victims of the regime, by the very system that is meant to protect them.
There is also the problem of employment while awaiting these decisions. We are requesting again that the Turkish government forego the ‘Land Use Tax’ being charged to refugees or allow them to work under the same employment conditions as national residents, in order to pay the tax. How are these families supposed to pay for rent, fuel, food and medicine to survive? Without the financial means to subsist many of the refugees have no other choice but to risk returning to Iran. This in itself comprises refoulment or forced return of the refugees to Iran, where their lives will once more be at risk.
Action is urgently needed by all parties involved to make the UNHCR system fit for purpose. In addition, all states that have a genuine commitment to the U.N. conventions on human rights need to re-examine that commitment and make changes urgently to facilitate the timely resettlement of refugees.
Walton K Martin
Dr Gill Gillespie
Directors – Iranian Refugees Action Network