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Corien Jonker: ‘Iranians in Camp Ashraf in Iraq are in urgent need of international protection’

 Strasbourg, 14.04.2009 – “The situation of Iranians in Camp Ashraf in Iraq has become more than alarming. These persons must, as a matter of urgency, receive full guarantees of international protection,” said Corien Jonker (Netherlands, EPP/CD), Chair of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

Camp Ashraf is the home of some 3,500 Iranians who have fled to Iraq from Iran, many of whom have been living there for over two decades. At the beginning of the year, the administration of Camp Ashraf was transferred from the United States to the Iraqi government, which promised it would provide the same guarantees and procedures as those formerly agreed between the US army and Ashraf residents.
“The situation in Camp Ashraf is going from bad to worse,” said Mrs Jonker. “The Iraqi government has made it clear that it wants to close the camp and expects the people living there to return to Iran or leave to a third country. Also, according to remarks by Iraqi officials, consideration is being given to moving these people to the middle of the desert in the south of Iraq. Many of the residents in Camp Ashraf are Iranian opposition members from the People’s Mojahedeen Organization of Iran (PMOI), [*] who risk persecution in Iran if they are forced to return. The screws are being applied to these people to make them leave.”
She continued: “Restrictions are being placed on the delivery of food, medicine and fuel to residents of Camp Ashraf. There are also reports that the residents are not able to visit Iraqi hospitals, and that medical doctors face difficulties from the Iraqi authorities if they visit the camp. Furthermore, relatives and other visitors are being refused entry to the camp.”
Mrs Jonker said that while living conditions in the camp were a primary concern, the greatest danger was the lack of international protection guaranteed for the residents. “These persons are at serious risk of being sent back to Iran, where – as opponents of the Iranian political regime – they face persecution and the risk of torture, ill-treatment and the death penalty,” she said. “I am greatly concerned that the Iraqi government has never officially acknowledged the rights of Ashraf residents under the Fourth Geneva Convention or under international law. I urge the Iraqi authorities not to forcibly return to Iran the residents of Ashraf who would risk persecution there, or to expel these persons to another country that might send them to Iran afterwards, or to forcibly displace them inside Iraq.”
Mrs Jonker also called on the Iraqi government to lift the restrictions placed on access to Camp Ashraf, including restrictions on the transfer of goods and services, and called on the authorities to allow international organisations and non-governmental organisations full access to the camp to ensure that conditions there – and the actions being undertaken in relation to the camp and its residents – are fully transparent.
[*] The People’s Mojahedeen Organization of Iran (PMOI) is an Iranian opposition group based in Iraq recently delisted from the EU’s terrorist blacklist.