March 18, 2011, Washington, D.C. — Thirty Iranians who had been detained in Kurdistan, Iraq, many if not all of whom were refugees, were illegally handed over yesterday by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is known to detain, imprison, torture, and sometimes execute returned refugees. Both the KRG, which continues to show its true colors as a criminal enterprise rather than a legitimate “democratic” government, and UNHCR-Iraq, which today displayed for the world its irrelevance regarding refugee rights issues, share responsibility for this crime.
Iranian refugees in Iraq exist in a permanent state of insecurity, caught between UNHCR’s de facto policies of neglect and abuse of Iranian asylum-seekers, the general crackdowns by the local authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan (the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Patriotic Kurdish Union), and the Islamic Republic of Iran’s penetration throughout Iraqi Kurdistan, targeting Iranian refugees for harassment, threats, and deportation back to Iran.
Under the pretense of functionality, UNHCR-Iraq has attracted thousands of Iranian refugees fleeing the ongoing bloody repression of the Iranian people by the Islamic Republic regime. But the reality is that UNHCR-Iraq is non-functional, utterly lacks credibility and authority, and is not even remotely considered as a factor in political decisions made by regional actors with regard to Iranian refugees. UNHCR-Iraq has functioned as nothing so much as a snare for Iranian refugees.
UNHCR must either accept the fact that it is not functional in Iraq and close its doors, or urgently and decisively augment its staffing and other capacities to efficiently process Iranian asylum-seekers and immediately arrange for their resettlement in a safe third country.
Illegal deportation of these 30 human beings to the Islamic Republic is a tragedy and a crime. Yet these are only 30 of thousands. There are many other refugees at risk of deportation.
The International Coalition for the Rights of Iranian Refugees condemns the passive, bystander role of the UNHCR. We demand an immediate, open, sincere report, addressed to the concerned and primarily Iranian refugees in Iraq, of UNHCR’s true capabilities regarding its mandatory responsibilities towards refugees in Iraq. UNHCR must cease and desist from the charade that it functionally exists in Iraq. We demand that the international community hold the Kurdistan Regional Government and its sponsors responsible for their crimes against both Iraqi and Iranian people.
International Coalition for the Rights of Iranian Refugees
Members of the ICRIR include Action for Democracy and Human Rights in the Middle East, International Federation for Iranian Refugees, Iranian Refugees Action Network, Iranian Refugee Amnesty Network, and Mission Free Iran