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Iranian refugees under threat of forced repatriation

NCRI – The UN refugee agency expressed concern for the safety of four Iranian Arab exiles held in Syria Tuesday, after one refugee who was qualified for resettlement in Europe was forcibly repatriated.

Ron Redmond, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said that a total of seven Iranian Arabs had been detained in recent weeks by Syria, Iran regime’s main Arab ally, amid mounting ethnic unrest in the sensitive Arab-majority Iranian oil city of Ahwaz.

Three were released following representations by the UN agency but four remained in detention.

Six of the seven had been recognized as refugees by the UNHCR, while the seventh had been granted Dutch citizenship, Redmond said.

"UNHCR is particularly concerned about the fate of these Ahvazis, as the Syrian authorities recently deported to Iran an Arab-Iranian Ahvazi," he added.

The deportee was sent back to Iran even though he had been recognized as a refugee by the UNHCR and had been due to be resettled in Norway in early April.

"UNHCR strongly appeals to Syria to abide by its obligations under international law," he added.

Redmond said that governments were bound not to repatriate refugees when their lives or freedom could be threatened "on account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion."

Human rights groups have expressed concern about the situation in Iran’s southeastern province of Khuzestan with Ahvaz as its capital, accusing the "Islamic republic" of cracking down on Arab groups and imposing a media blackout.

The Syrian government in 2003 extradited two Iranian refugees staying in Syria who had been recognized and given political Asylum by the British authorities. The two Iranian refugees were handed over to the Iranian Intelligence Ministry and their money was confiscated.

According to informed sources, top Syrian officials had asked for a large sum of money in order to stop the extradition, but nevertheless, went on with the extradition despite a huge sum of money they had received.