|Overseas Immigration News - 21-07-1999|
1,500 MKO Iranians Lied To Get Asylum
Iranian Asylum Seekers With False Story
By Carolien Roelants and Michael Stein
NRC Handelsblad (Rotterdam), July 16, 1999
Amsterdam -- It is estimated that over the last few years some 1,500 Iranian political refugees have obtained a residence permit in the Netherlands by telling false stories. They claimed to have come directly from Iran, but in reality they had come from Iraq. There they had worked for the Mojahedin-e-Khalq, an Iranian opposition group that is bent on overthrowing the government in Tehran by violent means -- and thanks to support provided by Iraqi president Saddam Husayn.
According to one staff member -- who wishes to remain anonymous -- at the Immigration and Naturalization Department (IND), which rules on the status of refugees and whether to approve their requests for asylum, until recently the IND swallowed virtually everything it was told by the Iranian refugees.
"All they know at the IND is that Mojahedin are in danger," he said. "Stupidity and ignorance predominate. So in the past it was also structural policy to award Mojahedin residence permits."
By pretending that they had come from Iran, a country to which they could not be sent back because they would be in great danger there, these members of the Mojahedin-e-Khalq were awarded the coveted A-status. Almost invariably, their story about how they had escaped was made up by their organization, which paid for their trip and, if necessary, provided false passports and identity papers. They were under orders from the organization not to reveal that they had been active members. They were "sympathizers," so as not to give an impression that the Mojahedin-e-Khalq had been weakened by losing members.
It was (and still is) of the utmost importance to the organization to have as many Iranians as possible in the West with refugee status.
Mojahedin "Bought" Iranian refugees
In Western Europe and the United States, on the other hand, they can make themselves very useful. For, by definition, anyone who makes it to there with the help of the Mojahedin-e-Khalq becomes dependent on the organization in the short or medium term. So the individuals in question have to collect money on the streets "for the poor children in Iran" and take part in as many political demonstrations as possible.
These demonstrations, for which even asylum-seekers from countries like Iraq and Afghanistan are recruited, are supposed to convince the world at large that the Mojahedin-e-Khalq has a vast number of supporters. Which is also why Iranians who had nothing to do with the Mojahedin-e-Khalq were "bought" by the organization in return for a tale of their escape concocted by it.
Last Sunday and Tuesday [11 and 13 July] the organization staged demonstrations in The Hague against "the terrorist Khatami" in particular [the president of Iran -- NRC Handelsblad editor's note], in which according to the police in The Hague only 75 and 50 people respectively took part. Last year, when Khatami went to the United Nations, the organization even gave people from Europe a week's stay in New York as a gift to demonstrate against him there.
"As a result of the overwhelming pressure, the decisions to grant refugees asylum has become a kind of lottery," the IND staff member said. "And not everyone's finger prints are checked. Other countries adopt a tougher approach. That is why the Mojahedin's organization ensures that those of its members or former members who are refused asylum elsewhere are admitted to the Netherlands under a different name."
He then went on: "A few countries are considered unsafe by the IND, such as Afghanistan, parts of Somalia, and Iraq, with the exception of the Kurdish zone in the north that is under US protection. The rest of Iraq is regarded as unsafe. But of course that does not apply to the friends and allies of Saddam Husayn. Yet I know of not a single Iranian who has ever been sent back to Iraq. However, in my opinion just recently the IND has somewhat changed its political tack. The whole admissions procedure has been tightened up, so the influx of Iranians has been considerably diminished. The people coming out of Iraq today are being kept on tenterhooks. They are not getting an unequivocal yes or no." Initially, the IND refused to answer NRC Handelsblad's questions: are the Mojahedin-e-Khalq in danger in Iraq? All a spokesman said was: "If you want information, go to the Foreign Ministry, which has a representation out there and issues official reports on the situation on the ground." After 10 days of telephone calls and a few more questions, the spokesman came back to us: "If people come here, their asylum story is checked on its own merits. Membership of the Mojahedin-e-Khalq is, in itself, not a reason for awarding a residence permit. They must plausibly be suspected by the Iranian government of being members of organizations or having ties with them. The Mojahedin are a sensitive issue. We are extra cautious with this group, bearing in mind their involvement in terrorist actions and their possible involvement in drugs offenses. That is why we pay very close attention to Article 1F of the Treaty on Refugees."
After a few more telephone calls, with the IND asking us why we had asked such questions, the spokesman finally stated that Iraq is /not/ regarded as a safe country to send people back to, referring to an article in the Netherlands Aliens' Act which states, among other things, that a request for admission is not to be granted if a country in which that person stayed previously would accept the individual in question. The implication in other words, was that the Mojahedin from Iraq would no longer be admitted. However, from interviews with former members of the organization, NRC Handelsblad has ascertained that a number of them did go back to Iraq, with or without refugee status from the Netherlands. These dissidents are convinced that the policy on admissions of Mojahedin is determined by purely political considerations.