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Australia signs refugee agreement with Iran


Australia signs refugee agreement with Iran. Europe to follow?

On March 12th 2003, the Australian Minister for Immigration, Phillip Ruddock, announced that the Australian Government had just entered into an “historic” agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran. In this Memorandum of Understanding, the Iranian Government said that, for the first time, they would accept asylum seekers forcibly deported back to Iran.

This agreement with Australia will leave the Iranian Government open to pressure from European countries seeking its replication. Australia is trying to forcibly deport around two hundred Iranian asylum seekers who have failed in their refugee applications, but European countries would like to deport tens of thousands.

According to UNHCR statistics, over fifty thousand Iranian nationals applied for asylum in Europe between 2000 and 20002. Approximately one third had their applications rejected.

“The Memorandum of Understanding opens the way for the European Community to begin negotiations with Iran to forcibly return these people, “ said Matt Hamon, spokesperson for the National Anti-Deportation Alliance, an Australia group formed to oppose forcible deportations. “It sets a precedent that's very worrying.”

“Iran doesn't want the thousands of European asylum seekers back, because it has an unemployment rate of thirty percent, “ said Matt Hamon, “This is the reason why, up until now, they've only agreed to accept asylum seekers returning voluntarily to Iran.”

Iranian asylum seekers in Australia have been given 28 days to accept a voluntary deportation package, which includes a payment of $2000 for individuals and $10,000 for families. They were sent letters informing them that those who don't accept this offer “will be required to return to Iran in the near future without the benefits of the financial assistance.”

They all claim to be genuine refugees and say they will face persecution on return to Iran. “We will be sent back like sheep to wolf,” they said, in a letter to the Australian public.

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