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Iranian Baha'i Refugees Denied Asylum in Turkey

Date: Tues, 17 Sep 96 22:07:03
Subject: ACTION ALERT: Summary Expulsion of 21 Iranian asylum seekers in Turkey
To: mx%""
September 6, 1996


Summary Expulsion of 21 Iranian asylum seekers in Turkey

Iranian Refugees' Alliance is appalled at reports of summary expulsion of 21 Iranian asylum seekers, twenty of whom are members of the persecuted Bahai community. While Turkish authorities deny knowledge of the incident, consistent violations of international refugee law by the Turkish government, including previous unlawful expulsions, as well as eye-witness reports all point to the fact that the group were forcibly returned to Iran.

On August 6, 1996, 21 Iranians (8 men, 4 women and 9 children, the youngest of whom is 4 years old), approached the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Ankara to request asylum. UNHCR officials registered their names and informed them of new regulations (Decision Number 94/6169), which require asylum seekers to apply within five days to the police in the city where they entered the country. The asylum seekers were issued documents by the UNHCR indicating their intention for requesting asylum from the local Turkish police. They boarded a chartered bus and arrived in Agri, the city of their entrance, the next morning. However, they never made it to the local UNHCR representative and to a designated Hotel in Agri as they were instructed.

According to a report by Aktuel (a Turkish magazine), the bus driver as well as hundreds of travelers and local business persons witnessed that Turkish security forces took the 21 Iranians in their vehicle a few hours after their early morning arrival in Agri. The same source reports that later that day, the same bus driver has seen the group riding in a police vehicle towards Gurbulaka and another local businessman, who did not want to be identified, has seen the vehicle heading towards Maku.

Despite continuos inquiries, UNHCR officials say that they have not even received an official acknowledgment of the incident from the Turkish authorities. Although Turkish authorities have refused to acknowledge the incident, in a report dated 12 August, Aksam (a Turkish newspaper) have reported that the Iranian authorities have confirmed the deportation.

Since November 1994, when new regulations were introduced, Iranian asylum seekers have been in an extremely precarious situation in Turkey. During 1995, UNHCR reported that 62 Iranians, recognized by UNHCR as refugees or persons of concern, were subjected to forcible return to Iran by the Turkish authorities. Due to lack of monitoring procedures, neither UNHCR nor other human rights organizations know the numbers of Iranians who have been deported right after entry at the borders.

International human rights organizations have vehemently criticized the five day rule imposed by Turkish authorities, who cite the failure to register claims within five days of arrival in Turkey, as a cause of deportation. The letter of the regulation includes other draconian measures such as designating the police as the authority to register and interview asylum seekers. It also denies asylum applicants legal advice and representation, full and fair hearing, and meaningful appeal of negative decisions.

Continuous breaches of international refugee law--which enjoins any action in any manner whatsoever that returns people to territories where their lives or freedom may be threatened-- by the Turkish authorities, makes it hard not to believe that the twenty one asylum seekers were not summarily expelled. Many commentators in Turkey have expressed that these unlawful expulsions were amicable gestures by Prime Minister Erbakan, head of the new Islamist-led government, to pursue previous agreements on exchange of dissidents, before his visit to Tehran.

Iranian Refugees Alliance condemns unlawful expulsion of the 21 Iranian asylum seekers and urges all concerned organizations to protest to the Turkish authorities and call for immediate halt to the forcible return of Iranian refugees.

You can write your letters to:
Prime Minister
Mr. Necmettin Erbakan
[salutation: Dear Prime Minister]
06573 Ankara, Turkey
Fax: 90-312-417 0476

Minister of Interior:
Mr Mehmet Agar
[Salutation: Dear Minister]
Ministry of Interior
Icisleri Bakanligi
06644 Ankara
Fax: 90 312 417 23 90

Minister of Foreign Affairs:
Mrs Tansu Ciller
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Disisleri Bakanligi
06100 Ankara
Fax: 90 312 419 1547

send copies to:

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Representative : Barry Rigby
UNHCR-Branch Office in Turkey
17 Abidin Daver Sokak Cankaya Ankara 06680 Turkey
Fax: (90 312)438 2702 email:

FOR MORE INFORMATION, please CONTACT Iranian Refugees' Alliance.
| Iranian Refugees' Alliance, Inc.
| is a non-profit organization in the US assisting
| and advocating on behalf of Iranian refugees and
| asylum seekers.
| For more information, please contact us.
| IRA Inc. *******************************
| Cooper Station * FAX: 212-260-7460 *
| POBox 316 * Voice: 212-260-7460 *
| New York, New York 10276-0316 * e-mail: *
| U.S.A. ******************************* |

©Copyright 1996, Iranian Refugees' Alliance, Inc.

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