The International Federation of Iranian Refugees (IFIR) strongly supports the protest action, as well as the demands, of Afghan asylum applicants in front of the Ankara branch of UNHCR. Their sit-in, now in its 12th day, is growing daily as more and more asylum seekers join them from different parts of Turkey.
The protest has taken form in opposition to UNHCR’s disregard for the basic needs of the asylum seekers. Afghan refugees have been among the world’s most oppressed refugees during the past 35 years – second only to the Syrians. The UNHCR, as an international body responsible for the welfare of refugees, has, indeed, at many junctures in the past not heeded the Afghan refugees’ dire needs and/or failed to observe their legal rights. It has, for instance, presented Afghanistan as a safe country; a lie that has given the governments in Iran and Turkey a free hand to adopt fascistic policies and behaviors toward Afghan refugees, including mass deportations to Afghanistan. Since 2012 the UNHCR has kept the files of Afghan applicants in limbo, and since the beginning of 2013 stopped accepting new applications from Afghans altogether. The IFIR, therefore, recognizes the current protest in Ankara as thoroughly justified and legitimate.
Afghan refugees have fled war, terrorism in all its possible forms, bloody ethnic and religious conflicts, disease, and so on. Many Afghan refugees in Turkey and other countries are, in fact, the last remaining persons of their families. The UNHCR must take heed of the realities of the wretched condition of hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees in Iran. A large portion of asylum seekers in Turkey have, indeed, fled their inhuman conditions in Iran, where they are constantly persecuted by the state intelligence-judicial apparatus in different ways, are branded as “illegal aliens” and thereby deprived of the rights to even rent property of any kind, use the services of public transportation, employment, marriage, etc. Even their children have been deprived of receiving identification papers and thereby deprived of education, and so on. This fascistic treatment of refugees based on race must be declared UNACCEPTIBLE by the UNHCR.
Now the basic question here is as follows: what other forms of oppression and persecution should Afghan refugees live under in order to be accepted as refugees by the UNHCR and the signatories of the Geneva Convention of 1951 and the protocol of 1967? Is not fleeing discriminatory conditions based on racism enough reason to qualify a person for the status of Convention refugee according to these two fundamental documents?
Afghanistan is NOT a safe country, for the simple reason that if it was, several million Afghans would not have been displaced and scattered all over the world, and for the past few decades too! It is this simple fact that the UNHCR should start from in order to come to the humane realization that Afghan refugees are, in fact, qualified to be recognized as such several times over according to all conventions and protocols in this respect.
We, therefore, request that the UNHCR urgently reactivate the suspended applications as well as begin to accept new applications submitted by the Afghan refugees.
Hambastegi, the International Federation of Iranian Refugees
April 25, 2014