BY SARAH STEPHEN
On February 28 the International Federation of Iranian Refugees (IFIR) and the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees began a joint international campaign against the lack of rights for asylum seekers in Turkey.
Currently, thousands of asylum seekers — primarily from Iran and Iraq — are living in intolerable circumstances. The process of determining refugee status takes months and sometimes years.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) procedures allow asylum seekers only one right to appeal. Many are not even interviewed as part of their appeal before their case files are closed.
Refugees are often humiliated by UNHCR legal officers, translators and guards. There have been reports of several instances where guards have beaten women and men attempting to gain assistance from the UNHCR. It is common for women asylum seekers to be interviewed together with their spouses. Sex-based persecution cases are not addressed in a serious and comprehensive manner.
Refugee claimants do not have access to any medical or financial assistance while their claims are being determined. They are also denied the right to work in Turkey, thereby subjecting them to hunger, abject poverty, deprivation, homelessness and serious health problems.
Those refugees who enter Turkey without documents (as many have no choice but to do) are sent to languish in cities bordering the countries they have fled, leaving them in a constant state of fear of deportation.
Hundreds of claimants are awaiting deportation. The Islamic Republic of Iran's execution of deported Iranian asylum seeker Karim Tujali in early January has renewed the fear of recrimination among all those forced to return to Iran.
For more information on the campaign visit IFIR at <http://www.hambastegi.org>.
From Green Left Weekly, March 6, 2002.
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