This page has been created to help provide refugees, and those who support them, with information regarding the situation of Iranian Christian refugees - their rights, challenges, and primary needs.
For a further overview of the situation of Iranian Christian refugees in Turkey, please see our recent report, The Plight of Iranian Christians Claiming International Protection in Türkiye.
Iran stands as one of the world's most notorious persecutors of Christians, consistently topping global watchlists for its violations of religious freedom. In this nation, Persian-speaking Christians find no sanctuary, prohibited from accessing the churches of Armenians and Assyrians and threatened with a decade behind bars for merely worshipping together in their own homes. Following arrest and imprisonment, many Christians flee their homeland and find fleeting refuge in neighbouring countries like Turkey, only to be met with further challenges—denied basic rights and facing the looming threat of deportation. With years spent in limbo, dreams deferred, and children's futures uncertain, these families yearn for a safe haven. Yet, hope remains. The global community has the means to help, and we hope to be able to play our part in connecting those with means with the refugees in desperate need.
Asylum-seekers and refugees in Turkey have several rights and obligations under the The Law on Foreigners and International Protection (LFIP), such as:
Iranian Christian refugees face numerous challenges, ranging from uncertainty in the asylum process, to issues related to employment, access to medical services, social discrimination, and the threat of deportation. These challenges not only affect their daily lives but also jeopardise their future. By clicking on the link below, you can read more about the main challenges faced by Iranian Christian refugees in Turkey.
We have made the following recommendations to the UNHCR, Turkish authorities and refugee-receiving governments:
Various organisations and NGOs provide support to refugees and asylum-seekers in Turkey. These organisations can offer legal advice, help with the asylum application process, and provide assistance in accessing basic services. Some of these organisations include:
While it is the responsibility of the UNHCR or Turkish authorities to assess asylum claims, NGOs such as Article18 can help to provide letters of recommendation regarding resettlement in cases where an individual’s rights violations in Iran are well-documented. If you would like to be considered for this provision, please fill out our “Report an Incident” form.
For more information about “How do I know if I have a resettlement case?” and “Who makes the final decision on my case for resettlement?” please visit this link.
States establish their own procedures of how to examine and determine the status of asylum applications. In countries where there is a national asylum procedure, including Turkey, the UNHCR is not primarily responsible but may offer advice and technical support. The UNHCR will only assume responsibility when a state is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or does not have a fair and efficient national asylum procedure in place.
Direct them to Article18’s website for documented rights violations against Christians in Iran, including our latest annual report.
Article18 is unable to provide individual support to those without documentation regarding the rights violations they experienced inside Iran. However, we hope that our reports can provide assistance for asylum-seekers and their lawyers looking to prove that Christians in Iran are at real risk of persecution - a fact accepted by the UK’s Home Office, among others.
Traditionally, many refugees have been relocated to safe countries through the UN mechanism, but this system has been paused in the past few years, and now only a small percentage of those relocated are Iranians, and an even smaller percentage are Iranian Christians.
This means that there are few clear prospects for these Christians to be relocated. But one of the very few options available for them is to be accepted with a refugee-sponsorship visa to a country like Canada. The United States also recently created a similar scheme, based on the Canadian model.
In Canada, an organisation, charity or group of individuals can apply to become a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH). Once they have this licence, the SAH can sponsor refugees for the first year of their relocation to Canada, which means providing for their housing and other expenses while they learn the language and are familiarised with their new context.
Below are a few examples of Iranian Christian refugees currently stuck in Turkey, whose cases Article18 has documented. Article18 has been asked to advocate for these individuals, and would love to invite you to consider “adopting” one of them - and committing to pray for them, write to them, and seek to support them in their resettlement journey.
I spoke with a Christian brother about my refugee status and that of my family. He gave me information about migrating to Canada through sponsorship. Until that day, I had no knowledge of this path. Through this brother, I became acquainted with another Christian in Canada who, with great effort, managed to find a sponsor for me and my family. To communicate with the sponsor and fill out the specific forms, we or one of our close relatives needed to be good at English.