Open Letter to the Jordanian Government on Iranian Refugees Stranded at its Borders

Maryam Namazie

Published in WPI Briefing
April 22, 2003

Mr. Ali Abu Ragheb
Prime Minister
Amman, Jordan
Fax: 464 – 2520

Mr. Qaftan Majali
Minister of Interior
Amman, Jordan
Via fax: 560 – 6908

Dear Messieurs Ragheb and Majali:

I am writing on behalf of the Worker-communist Party of Iran (WPI) and the International Federation of Iranian Refugees (IFIR) to raise our strongest opposition to the Jordanian government’s refusal to permit the entry of the over 1,000 refugees, many of them Iranians, and including over 400 children and infants, who are stranded at the windswept no-man’s-land separating Jordan and Iraq at Al Karama. Refugees who are stranded there have informed us that the numbers are now nearing 2,000 and are increasing every hour. Some of the refugees have been waiting weeks to enter Jordan.

The stranded Iranian refugees are mainly political opponents of the Islamic regime in Iran who have fled Al-Tash refugee camp in Iraq as a result of the USA and Britain’s attack on Iraq and the resulting insecurity or are members of the People’s Mujahedeen Organisation of Iran (PMOI) who have fled the USA attack on their bases in Iraq. The refugees are currently living in abysmal conditions without proper shelter and food and no sanitation and health services. Some are critically ill and need urgent hospitalisation. There are also fears of an impending outbreak of diseases such as cholera and dysentery. While a human catastrophe is unfolding and conditions are deteriorating, the Jordanian government persists in refusing the refugees entry.

By obstructing their entry into Jordan, the Jordanian government is contravening internationally recognised norms of providing refuge to persons in need of protection as well as the agreement reached between the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Jordan’s Minister of Interior concerning the provision of international protection and humanitarian assistance to persons in need. The WPI and IFIR stress that: all the refugees must be granted entry, given the necessary assistance and protected from deportation, including to Iran. According to statements by Jordanian officials, the Jordanian government is contacting respective embassies to ‘ensure their repatriation’. The refugees stranded at the border are persons who have fled persecution by the Islamic regime in Iran and are opponents of the regime. Upon their forcible return to Iran, they will likely face execution, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. They must not be refouled to Iran under any circumstances. Moreover, their right to asylum must be recognised. While Jordan is a non-signatory to the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, it must provide the UNHCR the opportunity to conduct status determinations and refugee resettlement to safe third countries. From our perspective, all the Iranians must be granted refugee status and resettlement. The few who have already been granted refugee status from before must be immediately transferred to their country of asylum.

The WPI and IFIR call on the Jordanian government to:

1. Open its borders to Iranian refugees, among others.

2. Provide the necessary food, shelter, health care and sanitation to the refugees in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

3. Recognise the right to asylum of Iranians.

We look forward to your immediate intervention regarding this critical issue. Needless to say, the Jordanian government is accountable for the lives and safety of the refugees stranded at its borders.


Maryam Namazie
On behalf of the Worker-communist Party of Iran International Relations Office
And the International Federation of Iranian Refugees

Cc: International human rights and humanitarian organisations, UNHCR, media.

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