Iranian Asylum Seekers to be Forceably Repatriated
August 23, 2003
The Federal Government will shortly begin forceably repatriating up to 30 Iranian asylum seekers and it admits they are likely to be detained in Iran while authorities confirm their identities.
A spokesman for Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock said 15 Iranians from the Baxter detention centre in Port Augusta had gone back voluntarily in the past two months and 30 more were "available for removal".
The 15, who volunteered to leave, were mostly single men. Each took the $2000 incentive payment provided by the Government.
A further 30 had been processed and refused refugee status. Those who were not subject to court injunctions would be sent back "in ones and twos" on commercial flights as Iran indicated it was ready to receive them.
The spokesman said the Iranians might be detained in Iran "for a day or so" while authorities there verified their identities.
That was done because they had left Iran illegally and authorities wanted to ensure they really were Iranian.
The spokesman would not say when the next repatriations would take place.
The detainees have written an open letter to Prime Minister John Howard and the Australian people, saying they feared being forced to return to Iran.
"It is Friday night and we are all very frightened because they tell us that tomorrow we will be deported by force to our country," the letter said.
"So tonight we cannot sleep. We pray that something will save us and we try to help each other.
"We did not leave our country and our family for getting rich or big adventure. We must leave because our Government is a dictatorship that tortures and kills its own people, like it was in Iraq, and we see on television how they open the graves of the poor tortured people.
"We ask that you see that we cannot go back to Iran because we are too afraid of the torture and prison we will have to go to. Many of us have already lost family or have brothers and fathers in prison in Iran."
The detainees said they felt they had not always been able to explain their plight in ways Immigration Department officers could understand.
"We need your help in this terrible situation," their letter said. "Please help us and stop this deportation of us. We beg you from our heart." http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/08/23/1061529379615.html