Call for Camp Liberty residents to be returned to Ashraf and designated refugees

20-Feb-2013 @ 16:0

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Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

The Friends of a Free Iran (FOFI) intergroup in the European Parliament, which enjoys the active support of over 200 MEPs from different political groups, held an urgent press conference highlighting the recent rocket attack on Iranian dissidents in Camp Liberty in Iraq. The camp occupied by 3100 asylum-seekers and refugees was attacked by 40 missiles on 9th February which resulted in the death of 7 people including a woman and injuries - many critical - to over 100.

Struan Stevenson MEP, Conservative MEP for Scotland, chairman of FOFI and President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for relations with Iraq, said: “There is strong intelligence that this vicious attack against these defenceless refugees was carried out by the terrorist Quds (Jerusalem) force of the Iranian regime with the help and coordination of the Iraqi government. Camp Liberty is situated in a military zone and one has to go through 7 check points to get there. This was a well organised assault which required Iraqi assistance to succeed. Iraq has officially announced that it cannot guarantee their security and cannot prevent further rocket attacks on Liberty. This is a clear indication of their ominous intentions to coordinate further attacks.”

The members of the European Parliament emphasised:

The most urgent issue is the security of the residents in Camp Liberty who may face similar tragedies at any moment. The first step is to return them to Ashraf, their home of 26 years, which is much more secure against such attacks being 80 times larger than the half-square kilometre prison of Camp Liberty. Then they can be transferred to third countries. The European Parliament in its May 2011 Plan had insisted on the transfer of the resident from Ashraf to safe third countries, but unfortunately the Iraqi government and  the UN envoy Martin Kobler refused and forced the residents to move to Liberty in line with the demands of Tehran. This left these people vulnerable to many dangers and instead of focusing on resettlement, wasted unaccountable energies and resources for this destructive and pointless displacement.

In August 2011, after a proposal by High Commissioner Antonio Guterres to Struan Stevenson, all Ashraf residents submitted their individual asylum applications to UNHCR. At that time Ashraf residents had asked for all of them to be declared refugees as a group but that did not happen. Now after 18 months, the UNHCR, as a preventive measure, must declare the residents as political refugees as soon as possible. This action is long overdue.

The MEPs strongly criticised the silence, inaction and extremely passive role of Baroness Ashton, the EU High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs. They called on her to condemn the regimes of Iran and Iraq for crimes against humanity in Camp Liberty and to mobilise the EU and the EEAS for the immediate return of the residents to Ashraf, and to assure them of their refugee status and their rapid resettlement.

The Iranian regime is in a crisis and as the presidential election gets nearer, desperately needs to attack its main opposition. So time is running out and as the threat of new attacks against the residents grows, their transfer to Ashraf and their rapid re-settlement to countries of safety must be concluded without delay.

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