Iranian asylum seeker deported

Issue 

Sarah Stephen

On October 14, the immigration department deported MK, an Iranian Christian, from the Baxter detention centre in South Australia. Australia is the only country that deports asylum seekers to Iran.

"Immigration minister [Amanda] Vanstone has removed the gloves and is brandishing the whip", Pamela Curr from Melbourne's Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said on October 15. Curr pointed out that prior to the election eight Iranian Christians were given visas on the basis that they were at risk of persecution, but just days after the Coalition's election victory it has begun to deport them.

The secret manner of MK's deportation is of great concern to refugee supporters. "While MK was at a church service in Baxter detention camp, his belongings were packed", Curr explained. "After prayers he was taken to the office and from there to a waiting police car and driven to Whyalla airfield. There he was placed on a private chartered jet and flown direct to Perth airport. Here he was driven across the tarmac to the waiting Emirates flight to Dubai and then presumably to Iran."

Curr added that "the coup de grace is media silence. The ABC will not report on refugee issues unless the immigration department provides a comment or confirmation. Just imagine when every government department uses this technique to stifle information about their activities. Voila the secret state!" As of October 16, the only media to report on the deportation was the Melbourne Age.

The forced deportation was only the second involuntary deportation of a Christian to Iran. However, Curr explained: "The pilot who flew MK from Whyalla confirmed that he was expecting two passengers. This means that the immigration department is already planning another deportation."

Converting to Christianity is an offence in Iran. On September 9, Hamid Pourmand, a lay pastor in the Assemblies of God Church in Iran, was arrested along with 85 other evangelical church leaders. Most were released later that day, but Pourmand remains in detention. Iranian authorities have refused to give any reason for the arrest and prolonged detention.

From Green Left Weekly, October 20, 2004.
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