Iranian Refugees In Iraq Face Uncertain Fate


In exclusive interviews with Rooz, Iranian refugees in the Iraqi Kurdistan reveal their desperate living conditions, uncertain fates, absence of security and unresponsiveness of the United Nations in processing their cases. Officials at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Erbil require applicants to “prove endangerment of life” as a condition for obtaining refugee status, stating, “Our budget and resources are limited and we cannot support all refugees one hundred percent.”

After the unfolding of events related to last year’s June 12 presidential election in Iran and mass arrests of individuals, a new wave of Iranians began migrating to foreign countries. Some emigrants have been able to obtain refugee status in European countries; others, however, are living in harsh conditions in Turkey, Iraq, and other nations neighboring Iran, waiting for the United Nations offices to process their cases.

An Iranian citizen seeking refugee status told Rooz that he was a member of Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s campaign office in Tehran, and was active in human rights and civil society networks. On his friends’ advice, he entered the Iraqi Kurdistan after enduring a rough journey and with the help of a guide. He has been facing an uncertain fate for the past four months in the Iraqi Kurdistan.

One of the main obstacles facing Iranians seeking refugee status in Iraq is the requirement that have to be sponsored by an Iraqi citizen in order to obtain temporary resident status. Usually, Iranians seeking refugee status in the Iraqi Kurdistan do not know any locals who are willing to sponsor them during their stay.

Another Iranian citizen seeking refugee status in Iraq told Rooz that he is a student activist who has been sentenced to imprisonment for about 15 years. He left Iran after posting a high bail amount and now resides in the Iraqi Kurdistan.

This student activist has concluded after two months in the Iraqi Kurdistan that the UNHCR office in Erbil is extremely week and ineffective. This poses a grave danger to Iranians seeking refugee status in Iraq, especially because of the absence of security in the region and the influence of the Iranian intelligence network and the Qods Force, the foreign-operations arm of the Islamic Passdaran Revolutionary Guards Corps.

We contacted the UNHCR office in Erbil in the Iraqi Kurdistan to ask about problems facing Iranians in Erbil. We asked what the UNHCR’s general responsibilities were and how the organization could help Iranians. UNHCR’s deputy chief at the Erbil office, Farhad Sami Abdolghader said, “UNHCR’s main responsibility is to protect the life and physical security of refugees and those seeking refugee status with the help of the host government. People added to our list can live in the Iraqi Kurdistan with our support and receive the right to work, education and related activities. With the help of UNHCR partners in Iraq and Kurdistan, we try to help those applicants who are in a grave situation. Our budget and resources are limited and we cannot support all refugees one hundred percent.”



Kaveh Ghoreishi

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