Documents confirm the illegality of the presence of people in Camp Ashraf in Iraq

Alsabah, Baghdad, March 18, 2010

(Translated by Iran Interlink)

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After investigations by the Iraqi Minister of Human Rights, Minister Salim said that the presence of the residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq is illegal. She stressed that the Iraqi government will deal with them in a purely humanitarian manner, and added that since 2003 it has secured the freedom of 300 of them who wanted to leave the camp.

In a statement summarised by al-sabaah newspaper, Minister Salim said that the government is dealing with the residents of the camp in Diyala province, members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, in a humane fashion. The absence of any official documents in their files of applications for asylum is an indication of the illegality of their presence in Camp Ashraf. However, between 2003 until the end of 2009, 300 have left the camp of their own free will and returned to their own country.

Minister Salim said that delegations from the Human Rights Ministry visit the camp from time to time to review the conditions of its population in coordination with the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations. In less than a year, 36 people have asked to leave the camp under the direct supervision of the Ministry. They asked to return to Iran without any influence from government bodies and they were brought to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which took responsibility for them.

For decades the MKO have been in this camp and have not been regarded as refugees. Now neither the UNHCR nor the International Organization for Migration deal with them on that basis and refuse to cooperate with them. The Ministry has addressed these organisations formally more than once in order to lend a helping hand to them, but they always affirm in their responses that that the MKO is a military organization and has not demilitarized. They can only deal with them once they leave the camp and claim civilian protection.

Minister Salim explained that the laws and agreements on the protection of populations who seek protection on the grounds of suffering because of armed conflicts or war do not apply to them because they are not in a nation in war or conflict.

Minister Salim indicated that since the beginning of the SOFA with the United States which transferred responsibility for the camp from the Americans to the Iraqis, the legal situation has changed completely for them. In particular after review of the records and papers which exist, officials did not find any requests for asylum or protection or evidence that their presence is in any way legal.

Minister Sailm said that in general it is necessary to deal with them in a spirit of humanity and not to deport them to countries where they may be exposed to harm or torture, asserting that the Iraqi government has committed itself to this principle. She expressed surprise at their refusal to be moved to another location which provides services and care since they have not rented and nor do they own the land they currently occupy.
 

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