Why Iranians join the refugee queue. Guest Iranian correspondent Nadia S Fosoul

Oct 18, 2013

In my country Iran, many dads take two jobs. They work hard so that their kids can check more items off their wish list. Moms like other moms in the world sacrifice their comforts for the sake of their children. Despite this, according to UNHCR data (immigrationinformation.org) the number of Iranian youth seeking asylum around the world has more than doubled since 2007. In 2012 nearly 20,000 Iranian sought asylum. Iran has thus, laid claim to producing one of the highest rates of brain drain in the world. Simultaneously Iran is one of the world’s largest refugee havens, mainly for Afghans and Iraqis.

Why do young Iranians leave Iran?

Sixty percent of Iran’s population is under 30, and are facing major difficulties in getting jobs. In Iranian families, the value of education is an important cultural element. Almost everyone believes that university education is essential for success. Thus, despite the highly competitive University entrance exams, the percentage of high school graduates who are admitted to universities is high. However, unemployment is one of the thorniest problems. This is because educational planners have focused most of their energy on expanding the universities’ admission rate. This has resulted in graduates having high expectations for their careers but with poor job prospects.

Over the period 1970 to 2000, Iran experienced a revolution in many ways. The Iraq-Iran war lasted from 1980 to 1989. There was a regime change from conservatives to liberals after the election in 1996. The revolution impeded economic growth and the Iraq-Iran war exhausted resources in the economy and hindered economic growth. Conservatives took over power again in 2005 by electing Ahmadinejad and re-electing him in a fraudulent 2009 presidential election, resulting in a series of protests. According to Anna Johnson and Brian Murphy in June 2009, the Iranian government disputed these allegations, and confirmed the deaths of only 36 people during the protests. Unconfirmed reports allege that there were 72 deaths in the three months following the disputed election. However, the death toll was possibly higher because relatives of the deceased were forced to sign documents claiming their family members had died of heart attack or meningitis. During this period Iranian authorities closed universities in Tehran, blocked web sites, blocked cell phone transmissions and text messaging, and banned rallies.

To make it worse the U.S. government tightened sanctions on Iran.  These sanctions were directed at ordinary people who bore the brunt in medicine and food shortages. There were also money problems.

As I mentioned earlier, Iranians put education as their priority, so they try hard despite all the financial and political pressures. However they like to speak out peacefully for their rights and they want to freely write their opinions without fear of interrogation and prison. They look for their legitimate rights in Iran. When they can’t find it in Iran they seek it elsewhere.

Their choice is immigrant friendly countries such as Australia that value freedom. The International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), states, “That every human being has a right to life, and to personal security, inviolability and freedom.” Countries that have ratified this agreement have taken concrete steps to promote and protect the economic, social and cultural rights of their people. Rights such as the right to work, the right to social security and the right to an adequate standard of living.

 Why opt for immigration?

For these reasons many Iranians under economic or political pressure decide to leave their home and migrate to a friendly country. However obtaining a visa is not easy. The immigration process now takes more than 3-4 years with no guarantee. So many just give up and look for an alternative way.

To make matters worse, immigrant friendly countries like Australia have toughened their immigration policies towards Iranians. This is particularly when there are political tensions in migrant friendly countries. However, it should be understood that Iran’s people face political persecution at the hands of the Iranian government. These people have difficulty obtaining legal visas while ironically, members of the regime can easily relocate to other countries on special visas. As a result innocent Iranians are being caught in the crossfire instead of getting support from refugee host countries like Australia.

Between 1994 and 2000 Australia admitted a large number of Iranian postgraduate students and their dependents. Virtually none returned home. Contrary to common preconceptions, Iran’s education system has been world class – notably in maths and sciences. Australians of Iranian heritage now work as leaders in law, politics, science and the arts in Australia and they have been acknowledged for the contribution they have made to Australian society. (Crock and Ghezelbash –ABC.net.au 25 July 2013)

There is a need for us to care for each other to make the world a better place to live in. The Persian poet, Saadi, says;

Human beings are members of a whole,

In creation of one essence and soul.

If one member is afflicted with pain,

Other members uneasy will remain.

 If you have no sympathy for human pain,

The name of human you cannot retain.


 In my blog of July 28, I referred to the special problems of Iranians, ‘Refugees or Migrants’. I suggested the need for other migration pathways, perhaps a 4-5-7 visa or sponsored migration.

 In the last 12 months, the proportion of boat arrivals in Australia from Iran has doubled from 16% to 33% of all boat arrivals. At 31 August there were 2,786 Iranians (32%) in immigration detention. Iranians were the largest group by far. A particular difficulty for Iranians who are refused refugee status is that the Iranian Government will not accept any returnees to Iran who have sought refugee status elsewhere. So unless Iranian asylum seekers can find residence in another country they face long detention in Australia.

 John Menadue

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