The repatriation of failed refugee claimants to Iran, including reports of claimants being detained, mistreated and tortured upon removal from Canada on the basis they made refugee claims in Canada; whether the Iranian government would be able to recognize that a returnee had made a refugee claim in Canada; the process by which failed refugee claimants are removed by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) (2003 - 2005) [IRN100758.E]

Information about how failed refugee claimants are treated by authorities when they return to Iran was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

An official of the Country Information and Protection Support (CIPS) Section within the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) in Australia provided the following information in 7 November 2005 correspondence:

It is CIPS' opinion that returnees in Iran may face discrimination based on their particular political opinion, ethnic/religious group etc., rather than because they are a "Western returnee." Those returning may face interrogation and the confiscation of their passport for a period. Returnees whom the security services suspect of being involved in serious crimes or high level anti-regime political activity may be arrested.

In a May 2005 interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), LaTrobe University professor David Corlett talked about his study of repatriated failed refugee claimants from Australia to countries such as Iran (10 May 2005). Specifically, Professor Corlett stated that Iranian returnees faced a "range of experiences," noting that while some had arrived without incident and were "reasonably safe," others had experienced mistreatment (ABC 10 May 2005). Regarding incidents of abuse, Professor Corlett pointed to an "extreme" occurrence of a man who was "detained immediately on arrival, and tortured for a considerable period of time" (ibid.).

For more information about Professor Corlett's study on the return of failed asylum seekers to Iran, please see the electronically attached excerpt of a speech he presented at a human rights forum in Australia in December 2004.

In April 2005, the Globe and Mail reported on two cases where Iranian deportees from Canada were subjected to mistreatment when they returned to Iran, and in one case the returnee "died after receiving 100 lashes in prison" (2 Apr. 2005). In the other case, a female student activist was detained for 26 hours and "was struck in the face and head twice while in prison when she refused to sign a document denouncing Canada" (Globe and Mail 2 Apr. 2005).

According to Country Reports 2004,

[c]itizens returning from abroad sometimes were subjected to searches and extensive questioning by government authorities for evidence of anti-government activities abroad. Recorded and printed material, personal correspondence, and photographs were subject to confiscation (28 Feb. 2005, Sec 2.d.).

With regard to the process by which failed refugee claimants are removed by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), in 16 November 2005 correspondence, a CBSA official provided the following information:

The CBSA removes foreign nationals on their valid passports or travel documents issued by their embassy officials. However, in cases where this is not possible, Enforcement Manual 10, Section 20.3 states that the CBSA may remove individuals using other identity documents, including a birth certificate or national identity card. At no point during the removal process are Iranian authorities or other receiving authorities advised that an individual has made a refugee claim in Canada. As a further safeguard to ensure the safety of an individual who is being removed from Canada, any person may submit an application for a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment to the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada prior to removal.

Moreover, in an April 2005 Toronto Star article, a CBSA official explained that decisions to deport individuals to Iran are addressed "on a case-by-case basis" (2 Apr. 2005).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Australia. 7 November 2005. Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA). Correspondence received from an official.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). 10 May 2005. The Law Report. "Removal of Failed Asylum Seekers." [Accessed 1 Nov. 2005]

Canada. 16 November 2005. Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). Correspondence received from an official.

Corlett, David. 9 December 2004. "Fearing Going Home." Don Chipp Foundation Human Rights Forum. New South Wales (NSW) Parliament House. [Accessed 23 Nov. 2005]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004. 28 February 2005. United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 14 Nov. 2005]

Globe and Mail. 2 April 2005. Rod Mickleburgh. "Deportations to Iran Rising Despite Torture Concerns." (Free Republic Website) [Accessed 4 Nov. 2005]

Toronto Star. 2 April 2005. Bruce Campion-Smith. "66 Asylum Seekers Sent Back to Iran." (Ladlass Website) [Accessed 4 Nov. 2005]

Additional Sources Consulted

Attempts to contact a number of professors and human rights orgnanizations specializing in this subject were unsuccessful within time constraints.

A professor specializing in human rights issues in Iran could not provide the information requested.

Officials from the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Finland, and Germany had no information on the situation of failed refugee claimants returned to Iran.

The Centre for Arab and Iranian Studies (CAIS) could not provide the information requested.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International, Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, Centre for Arab and Iranian Studies (CAIS), Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI), Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, International Federation of Iranian Refugees (IFIR), Iranian Refugees Alliance, World News Connection (WNC).


Corlett, David. 9 December 2004. "Fearing Going Home." Don Chipp Foundation Human Rights Forum. New South Wales (NSW) Parliament House. [Accessed 23 Nov. 2005] Electronic Attachment

Corlett, David. 9 December 2004. "Fearing Going Home." Don Chipp Foundation Human Rights Forum. New South Wales (NSW) Parliament House. [Accessed 23 Nov. 2005]


The situation for Iranian returnees is different to that of Afghans. Afghans in both Afghanistan and Pakistan are insecure primarily because of a lack of an effective state to offer security against terrorists and other non-state threats.

In Iran, the problem is precisely the opposite: it is an over intrusive, repressive state that people have fled.

Iranian asylum seekers in Australia have been subjected to similar pressures to return as were Afghans. Some have returned, but many haven't. I met with about 10 Iranians who had.

The overwhelming sense I had in Iran is that it is a place of multiple realities. It would be possible to go to Iran and simply enjoy the hospitality of ordinary Iranians and the remarkable Persian history and culture.

It is also possible to get a sense of the popular disapproval of the regime - taxi drivers, shop assistants, people in the streets all commented how it was the mullahs that were ruining Iran.

But while this private disapproval has been noted by Human Rights Watch, that organization has also documented the systematic silencing of political dissent in the country since 2000.

But for a foreigner visiting only briefly, this deeper level of repression in Iran is difficult to grasp. It is not possible to visit the secret detention centres that have been documented by human rights organizations.

It is not possible to speak to the intelligence forces.

It is not possible to get a sense of what are called 'parallel institutions' - agents of state coercion that sit outside the formal legal system. By their nature, these things are kept out of sight.

I have heard it said that Iran is like an onion. You peel away the first layer and you get to another and another and so on.

Consistent with this general complexity, the situation of returnees was not entirely certain. One man I spoke to had returned after his family had paid bribes to the authorities to ensure his safety. (Corruption is said to be rife throughout the country and represents another level of reality there!)

But despite the bribes, when he arrived in Iran, he had his money stolen and was jailed in one of the notorious Iranian prisons. Because of the bribes, he was released after many months and extensive interrogation.

He is now constantly observed and has restrictions on his movements. He is someone who should have been offered protection in Australia on the basis of a well-founded fear of persecution.

Another man was detained for nearly 2 weeks upon return. Others for several days.

Others had court cases pending - on the basis of claims that they had converted to Christianity.

Others again had been monitored and interviewed by the authorities on several occasions.

Some did not want to talk about anything concerning their plight in any detail, including what they feared.

I met one man in a main street in Tehran and we walked up and down the busy shopping precinct talking - he was concerned that should we leave the shopping strip, we might be singled out and asked questions by the authorities.

Other people I met in public places so that I would not be observed walking into their homes.

These sorts of precautions were consistent with what I was told before I went to Iran - that the security intelligence apparatus is all-pervasive.

Yet I also had the sense that in some instances, Australian officials were right that the Iranians I met were not refugees when they arrived in Australia.

This is true both according to a narrow reading of the definition of a refugee and according to a broader understanding of Australia's obligations to offer protection to people whose safety might be at risk for a range of non-Convention related reasons.

Whether they became refugees in Australia - because they converted to Christianity, for example - is a different issue.

As I said, a number of the men had ongoing court proceedings against them on the basis of claims that they had converted to Christianity. They did not know what would happen next. And Iran's judicial system is notoriously corrupt. According to Human Rights Watch

'A handful of judges appointed by and accountable to the Leader define and enforce the law. The judicial system in practice violates basic due process rights at every level.'

One man told me that should he be found to have converted to Christianity, 'The judge should act according to the religious law. And the religious law about this matter is to cut.... The punishment would be death.'

What can be said with certainty is this: Returnees are actively seeking to keep a low profile in Iran; they deliberately deny that they believe something contrary to the state and lie about their activities in Australia.

If asked, they deny that their motivation for leaving Iran and seeking asylum in Australia was related to the Iranian religious and political regimes.

And almost every person I spoke to in Iran was planning to leave the country again.

I sat with a man on the morning before he left Iran for Turkey. His plan was to get from Turkey to Greece and then Europe where he hoped he could believe in and say what he wanted.

And this points to one of the most vivid metaphors that describes life in Iran: it is a sort of slow moral, intellectual and spiritual suffocation.

Returnees said that they were just biding their time, that they could put up with life, that they could pretend and persevere, for the time being.

But there would come a point in the future where they would have to escape. Their desire to breathe freely would get the better of them. And they would be compelled to leave again.

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