Memorandum submitted by the Iranian Freedom
IRAN'S REFUGEE PROBLEM
Every year tens of thousands of Iranians leave
Iran to make asylum applications in Western countries. Iranian
asylum seekers are the second largest group seeking refuge in
the UK according to Home Office figures.
It is important to understand why so many people
leave Iran, how the Islamic Republic government, views and handles
this and important issues that the UK authorities must be aware
The vast majority of Iranian refugees are non
political, in the sense that they have not taken part in any political
activity against the regime. Nevertheless these are people who
feel they can no longer live in the restrictive theocratic state
which offers them little opportunity for self development and
Most Iranian refugees leave Iran through a perilous
journey, which can take many years before they reach the security
and freedom they seek.
It is important to understand why so many, particularly
young Iranians, who are not facing any immediate arrest or detention
in Iran choose to risk their lives, livelihood, family and honour
in such a perilous uncertain task, yet these same refugees are
not willing to take part in any political activity against the
regime inside Iran and obtain the personal freedoms they desire
in their own country.
Having talked to thousands of Iranian refugees
across Europe and border towns of Turkey, our conclusion is that
the Iranian refugees and asylum seekers feel by seeking asylum
in Western countries, they have a 5% chance of a better life,
where as they feel their chance of success in taking on the regime
which would lead to any positive outcome is zero.
Over the last 28 years, the Islamic Republic
has managed to wipe out any credible internal opposition without
much international outcry and at the same time even the United
States and Europe have been shown to be weak and incapable of
matching the strength of the Iranian regime by a continuous policy
of appeasement or what the EU members like to refer to as "critical
A combination of swift sharp crackdown on any
credible Iranian opposition inside Iran and the perceived weakness
by the West to deal with the Islamic Republic, has helped to create
an image of regime's invincibility to the Iranian people. This
has resulted in the Iranian people lacking confidence to take
on the regime.
The Islamic regime welcomes the perception of
this image by the Iranian people and further promotes it at every
opportunity, in particular when the EU and the US seem incapable
of putting any real pressure on Iran.
Far from showing a hostile reaction to those
who leave the country to seek asylum elsewhere, the Iranian government
has astutely turned the situation to her own advantage.
The Iranian government views those who leave
Iran and their discontent with the status quo in Iran, as a potential
internal problem. When these people leave Iran, part of this potential
troublesome force is literally removed from Iran by itself.
We have even heard from genuine political refugees
and ex-political prisoners, who have been detained by Iranian
intelligence agencies at the airport before leaving Iran, to be
told that they should also take their other family members out
of Iran with them too.
The regime knows that genuine political activists
who leave Iran will be neutralised by the ongoing internal wrangling
of the Iranian ex-pat opposition. They will even be accused by
the external opposition of being bogus dissidents who have left
Iran with relative ease.
As for the non-politically active asylum seekers
who have left Iran and have been successful with their asylum
applications, again the Islamic regime has found an ingenious
way of neutralising them from ever becoming an effective power
base against the government outside Iran.
Once these refugees have made a successful asylum
application they are then encouraged to go to the Iranian embassy
in London and claim that their passport is lost or stolen. They
will even print an ad in a local newspaper asking for anyone who
finds their "missing" passport to return it to them.
The Islamic Republic embassy in London, knowing full well what
is going on, turns a blind eye and issues them with a new Iranian
passport. These people can now effectively enjoy life in the West
and the opportunities it provides and at the same time have the
privilege of visiting their relatives and enjoy cheap holidays
in Iran. Thus for the sake of retaining that privilege, the Iranian
government ensures that these masses will never dare to dabble
in Iranian opposition activities outside Iran.
By adopting such resourceful tactics, the Iranian
government ensures that a potential discontented population is
removed from the country, will never enter opposition activities
outside Iran, and will even become a source of income through
their annual visits to Iran.
It is bizarre that the very people, who once
endured such perilous journeys and falsely claimed their lives
and freedom is in such imminent danger, suddenly feel comfortable
to travel back and forward to Iran so frequently without facing
any consequences from either the UK or the Iranian government.
Some of these bogus refugees even work for the
Iranian government agencies operating in UK such as Press TV,
the Islamic Centre in Maida Vale, schools, mosques, student societies
The Iranian government has also seen yet another
opportunity to its benefit from this refugee saga and that is
to send their own agents as asylum seekers who will later become
UK residents with full rights and benefits.
To our knowledge there is no monitoring of these
people who have achieved successful asylum applications under
false pretences by the Home Office, nor do they face any retribution
if they are found to have obtained asylum under false pretences.
In our experience, the UK government has not
got an effective procedure for distinguishing between genuine
and bogus asylum seekers. As one of our immigration lawyer friends
once said, "To make a successful asylum application is very
much like buying a lottery ticket". Many genuine asylum applicants
are refused while thousands of bogus applications are quickly
At the same time the Iranian ex-pat opposition
has also been ineffective at recruiting from this potential mass
of discontented Iranians. Many ineffective and irrelevant opposition
groups of the Iranian Diaspora, in order to bolster themselves
as an effective group with operatives inside Iran, have written
statements in support of bogus Iranian asylum seekers claiming
that the applicant is one of their members inside Iran etc. Usually
these applicants will take part in some activities with their
sponsoring groups, such as protests outside the Iranian embassy
in London, for the duration of their application with the Home
Office, but will cease all contact with their sponsoring groups
as soon as their application has been successful.
Currently there are two schools of thought in
the free countries on how to handle Iran.
A few who are currently in minority favour military
action and intervention, while most other pundits, usually out
of desperation and having no other viable alternative, favour
appeasement and negotiation with the Iranian regime.
While we consider engagement with the Iranian
government as a natural and necessary diplomatic activity, we
consider the way this has been carried out in the last 28 years
to have been ineffective. After 28 years of failure it is common
sense to review this approach.
In order for the West to have a serious cutting
edge in negotiations with Iran, there must be a credible Iranian
opposition which can be used as a lever against the regime.
A credible Iranian opposition is necessary even
for those who suggest a military scenario to deal with Iran, for
there needs to be some form of opposition that can take control
of the situation after an attack, or there will just be chaos
and anarchy in a crucial part of the world.
Just as in the Soviet era, engagement with the
regime must also go hand in hand with support for human rights
and engagement with Iranian dissidents.
It is also in the West's interest to have a
credible effective Iranian opposition outside Iran. Most of the
ex-pat opposition groups outside Iran however are ineffective
and lack credibility.
Their activities are limited to holding summits
and conferences in hotels, where formations of short-lived new
opposition groups are announced. They fail to see that credible
opposition groups can only be formed in conjunction with social
work and charitable activities, as practiced by the Islamic Republic
in other countries. Of course the Islamic Republic has the benefit
of having access to billions of petro-dollar income and Iranian
opposition groups mostly operate on shoe-string budgets.