Iran's win-win policy on asylum seekers to the West

Most Iranian asylum seekers to Western countries are bogus. But the Iranian regime refuses to take them back. Not for the first time, they know exactly what they are doing in their win-win policy

Iranian embassy in London
Potkin Azarmehr
On 22 April 2015 07:52

The failure of the Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, in her recent visit to Iran, to convince Iran to take back Iranian asylum seekers, who have been rejected by Australia, echoes the same difficulties that Theresa May has had with Iranian officials in repatriating Iranian asylum seekers to Britain whose applications have been rejected.

It is an issue that remains an obstacle in renewing full diplomatic relations between Iran and the UK and the full re-opening of the embassies.

There are around 5,000 Iranians in the UK whose asylum application has failed but Theresa May is unable to send them back home. To make the deportations legal, Iran must acknowledge that the failed asylum seekers are Iranian nationals, yet the Islamic Republic's consulate in London claims they cannot be certain where these asylum seekers came from.

Iran's deputy head of Consular Affairs, Hasan Qashqavi, who is also in charge of the Affairs of Iranians abroad, also criticised Bishop for wanting to deport the failed Iranian refugee applicants and said: “Forced deportation was an abuse of human rights” So how is it that the Islamic Republic has suddenly become so concerned about the human rights abuse of its citizens?

The fact is that the vast majority of asylum seekers from Iran, applying for asylum in Europe and Australia, are not political and their lives or livelihoods are in no danger at all. More than 99 percent of the Iranian asylum seekers are either economic migrants or they find the cultural repressive atmosphere in Iran intolerable.

Only a tiny minority of asylum applicants from Iran are genuine political activists or face persecution for their religious beliefs or their sexuality etc.

Most of these bogus asylum seekers who initially claim their lives are in danger and they face execution or prison if they are returned to Iran, actually travel back and forward to Iran frequently, after their asylum application is approved and they become residents in the host countries.

This farcical situation is not one that Iranian opposition activists approve of either, for it clogs up the process for the genuine Iranian dissidents fleeing real danger and persecution from the Islamic Republic.

The Islamic Republic of Iran from very early on adopted a policy on refugees from Iran which can only be described as a win-win policy for the regime. There is a huge number of Iranians who find the cultural repression by the Islamic Republic unbearable. They prefer the lifestyle in the West and prefer to live in the West but they do not want to engage in dangerous opposition politics to overthrow the regime.

They also prefer to be able to go back and forward to Iran on holidays. There are also economic migrants who face long term unemployment and economic hardship in Iran and are lured by the opportunities and the social benefits systems they hear will be available to them in the West.

For the Iranian regime, it is preferable for both of these categories to leave Iran. Inside Iran they will be a problem and a potential source of discontent. If they keep the privilege of going back and forward to Iran and visiting their friends and relatives, they will also become a passive expat community, unwilling to engage in opposition politics and protests against the regime outside Iran.

Furthermore they will also bring much needed foreign currency to Iran and will have many more potential uses for the regime. Iran can also slip in many of its own infiltrators into the West via the chaos created by the sheer overwhelming numbers of refugee applicants.

The normal procedure at present is that after a bogus asylum seeker from Iran has his or her application accepted and is granted residency in a Western country, they will go to the local Iranian embassy or consulate and claim they have lost their passport.

The Iranian official will then wink at them and say, “of course you have, would you like another one?” and they will be issued with a new Iranian passport. They will then enjoy the benefits of living in the West and also have the privilege of going to Iran for holidays.

It is no wonder then Iran is not interested in taking back refugees whose asylum applications have failed. Why should they? So far, it really has been a win-win policy for the Islamic Republic.

Potkin Azarmehr left Iran for the UK after the “Cultural Revolution”. He is currently a contributor to several newspapers and Television stations on Iran related news and also writes and produces a number of TV programs

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