HIGH COMMISIONER FOR REFUGEES
Branch Office in Turkey
11 August 95
A group of Iranian nationals have staged a sit-in in the office of the Turkish Socialist Unity Party in Ankara since last weekend. This group numbered little more than 50 with their families. They have expressed that their aim is to have UNHCR Ankara Branch Office review their claims once again to recognize them as refugees and to protest their impending deportation by the Turkish authorities. The International Federation of Iranian Refugees and Immigrants Councils (IFIRIC) declared that a large number of rejected asylum cases were not reviewed by the UNHCR and this provided the Turkish government with a legal justification for their deportation.
Some clarifications are necessary to fully understand the situation of these asylum seekers.
First, the major portion of the constant flow of Iranian citizens to and from Turkey is not related with asylum. Most of them are tourists, businessmen, students, people visiting relatives, etc. Only a small portion have approached either the Turkish government for temporary asylum or UNHCR asking for solutions. The majority can go back to Iran without facing difficulties and do so regularly.
Second, those who seek asylum in Turkish territory are required to comply with Turkish law and regulations. Since 30 November 1994, there is a new Asylum Regulation which provides principles and guidelines for all asylum seekers, including Iranians. But even before the Regulation, since the beginning of 1994, the Turkish government had been interviewing Iranian asylum seekers to decide if they fulfill refugee criteria before they are given temporary residence in Turkey.
Third, UNHCR also examines cases to determine whether their claims make them qualify for UNHCR protection, assistance and eventually resettlement to a third country.
Fourth, UNHCR will not intervene with the government of Turkey to prevent the deportation of people we do not believe meet the refugee criterias. According to Article 6 of the Asylum Regulation, those asylum seekers who had their applications rejected after the review of the Ministry of Interior are to be deported. This seems to be the case for those asylum seekers who have staged a sit-in in the Turkish Socialist Party.
Those asylum seekers who participate in the protest seem to have approached UNHCR quite a long time ago. Each of their cases have been evaluated at least two times by different legal officers as the international standard requires. Most of them had a review three or four times to ensure the correctness of each decision. They were found not to fit the refugee criteria in the various assessments.
Not all asylum seekers whose claims have been reviewed by the government of Turkey or UNHCR turn out to have valid reasons for seeking refugee status. Some Iranians leave their country for economic and other personal reasons.
UNHCR Ankara Office has been very open to keep a permanent dialogue with the Iranian refugee community. UNHCR officers have met at least once a month since the last three or four years with the representatives of IFIRIC to solve the problems of Iranian asylum seekers and refugees.
11 August 1995