Refugee at Risk of Forcible Return from Lebanon to Iran

Mohammad Taher Batili is a refugee at risk of torture and possibly the death penalty. He is an Iranian national and member of Iran’s Arab minority. He and his family fled to Lebanon in May 2009 to escape reprisals from the Iranian government due to his and his father’s political activities in support of the Arab minority in Ahvaz, Khuzestan province. He is recognized as a refugee by the UN but was arrested in the Lebanese capital of Beirut on June 2, 2010 on the grounds that he entered Lebanon from Syria illegally. On June 26 he was convicted for “irregular entry” and sentenced to two months’ imprisonment and payment of a fine. One he serves his sentence he may be forcibly returned to Iran where he would be at risk of torture and possibly face the death penalty.

Mohammad Taher Batili has been interrogated twice by officials from Iran’s embassy in Lebanon regarding his father’s political activities and those of other members of Iran’s Arab minority in Syria and Lebanon. His father, Hadi Mohammad Jawad Batili, has been arrested in Iran several times because of his political activities and support of Arab minorities who had been marginalized and abused by government authorities.

Lebanon hosts a large number of refugees seeking protection from violence, war and systematic human rights abuses in their home countries. While many of them are formally recognized as refugees by the UN, they often face arrest and detention by Lebanese authorities. In 2008 the Lebanese authorities agreed to grant refugees a three-month grace period to find an employer to sponsor them and provide them with a residence permit, but it seems this agreement is not being honored. Lebanon is bound by international customary law, including the principle of non-refoulement which states countries may not forcibly return people to countries where they would face serious human rights violations, including torture and other ill-treatment.


European governments forcibly return asylum seekers to Iraq

Today 60 Iraqis were forcibly removed from the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands. They had applied for asylum and were denied. Ten Iraqis who were in the UK, 28 in Sweden and the rest of the Iraqis were flown today to Baghdad, and more are scheduled to be returned to Iraq next Wednesday.

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said that the Iraqis who are forcibly returned to Iraq are at grave risk, but Matthew Coats, head of immigration at the UK Border Agency, said “We are determined to remove those with no right to be in the UK,” according to BBC News.

About 2.7 million Iraqis are internally displaced, 1.5 are refugees in neighboring countries, and more are scattered in Europe and other parts of the world where they face being forcibly returned to Iraq.

The human rights situation in Iraq remains precarious, with suicide bombings, kidnappings, violence by militias and other armed forces taking place in most parts of Iraq every month.

Please join Amnesty International in calling on the British, Swedish, Norwegian and Netherlands governments to stop the forcible return of Iraqis.