‘Critical need’ for new resettlement opportunities for Iranian Christian refugees in Turkey – report

‘Critical need’ for new resettlement opportunities for Iranian Christian refugees in Turkey – report

There is a “critical need” for new resettlement opportunities and sponsorship programmes for Iranian Christian refugees in Turkey, says a new joint report published today on World Refugee Day by Article18 and three partner organisations.

The report, which is a collaboration with Open Doors, CSW and Middle East Concern, notes that resettlement often takes many years, and “meanwhile, most Iranian Christian refugees exist in survival mode, overwhelmed by their precarious living conditions … [with no] stable jobs or incomes, and [the] risk of being deported”.

The report includes first-hand testimonies from dozens of refugees to answer the following questions: What drives Christians to flee Iran? Why is Turkey a preferred first destination? What is the procedure for those seeking international protection in Turkey? What challenges do Iranian Christian refugees, and their children, face? Do they suffer discrimination? And what are the opportunities for resettlement in a third country?

The majority of the report is dedicated to highlighting the challenges the refugees face, under seven headers: “Lack of employment, exploitation, and financial challenges”; “Health insurance withdrawal”; “Discrimination, racism, societal hostility and security threats”; “Children’s welfare and education”; Uncertainty and procedural inconsistencies”; “Threat of deportation”; and “Psychological pressure”.

The report also highlights the few current opportunities for resettlement: sponsorship programmes to Canada, Australia and, most recently, the United States.

“Traditionally, many refugees in Turkey have been resettled through the UN mechanism,” the report explains. “However, the process has slowed significantly in the past few years. In contrast to the situation a few years ago, only a small percentage of those relocated are Iranians, and an even smaller percentage are Iranian Christians.”

The report applauds the recent establishment of a new sponsorship programme in the US, as well as the Canadian parliament’s decision to resettle 10,000 Uyghurs fleeing persecution in China, and calls for “the establishment of a similar initiative to expedite the resettlement of refugees from Turkey, including Iranian Christians”.

“According to UNHCR statistics, in mid-2022 there were 32.5 million refugees worldwide, 3.7 million of whom were hosted by Turkey,” the report says. 

“In the first six months of 2022, just 42,300 refugees were resettled globally, with or without the assistance of the UNHCR. If resettlement continues at this rate, it will take nearly 400 years to resettle the existing refugees throughout the world.”

The report concludes with recommendations for: 

  • Turkey to provide access to basic healthcare beyond the first year of registration for protection, and to regulate and facilitate employment opportunities for refugees, thereby ending exploitation in the workplace;
  • the Turkish immigration authorities to clarify the application procedure, providing a timeline within which claims will be processed, and to undertake and illustrate due diligence in assessing refugee claims, including those of Iranian Christians;
  • the UNHCR to ensure the resettlement process is transparent, and to intervene swiftly to assist refugees and asylum-seekers who are in imminent danger of refoulement;
  • refugee-receiving governments to provide resettlement opportunities and develop sponsorship programmes to expedite the resettlement process for Iranian Christians and other refugees in Turkey.

You can download a copy of the full report here.