Swiss mull asylum for Iranian opponents

Switzerland is considering whether to take in refugees belonging to the controversial Iranian group, the People’s Mojahedin, currently living in Camp Ashraf in Iraq.

This content was published on September 30, 2011 - 19:43

The organisation, which opposes what it calls the “mullahs’ regime” in Iran, was supported by the ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, and had several bases in Iraq when he was in power.

However, the current Iraqi government has friendly ties with Iran and wants to get rid of the Mojahedin as soon as possible.

The Swiss cabinet discussion of the issue comes after the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on September 13 that camp residents who had submitted requests for refugee status are to be regarded as asylum-seekers under international law.

Government spokesman André Simonazzi told the Swiss News Agency on Friday that the cabinet had discussed whether Switzerland might take a contingent from the camp. Any decision would be taken in conjunction with the UNHCR and the European Union. He did not say when a decision might be reached, or how many asylum-seekers could be involved.

Camp Ashraf, about 80 kilometres north of Baghdad, currently houses about 3,400 people.

A number of clashes have been reported this year between the inhabitants and Iraqi security forces. The group says dozens of their people have been killed and hundreds injured. The Iraq authorities put the number of casualties much lower.

A report on the Mojahedin website warns of the possibility of a “Srebrenica-like massacre” at the camp.

The group is still on the United States list of “terror organisations”, but it has influential supporters in the US Congress, who are trying to get it removed. The EU dropped it from its own list in 2009.

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