Whether the Iranian government was forcing Iraqis to return to Iraq after they had fled Iraq in 1991 and lived in Iran with families since then; whether selection of returnees was restricted to a certain group of Iraqis, and, if so, who they were (1997-1999) [IRN31603.E]

According to the Persian Gulf researcher at the U.S. Committee for Refugees in Washington, who visited refugee camps in Iran in 1991, there has been no forced deportation and/or repatriation and/or extradition of Iraqi refugees to Iraq since 1997 (3 May 1999). The vast majority of Iraqi refugees who fled to Iran in 1991 were repatriated to Iraq in 1991.

In the spring of 1991 around 1 million Iraqi refugees crossed into Iran where they were placed in refugee camps along the border. By December of the same year, the majority of them had returned to Iraq. In September 1996, around 60,000 refugees from northern Iraq fled to Iran. By December 1996 they had all returned to Iraq. The Gulf researcher added that the 1996 repatriation of Kurds to northern Iraq had an "element of coercion from the Iranian authorities." In 1998, there was a voluntary repatriation programme conducted for Iraqi refugees in Iran wanting to return to Iraq. The programme was cancelled after the Iraqi authorities demanded that all the returnees pass through government verification. Today most Iraqi refugees in Iran arrived during the Iran-Iraq War as a result of deportation by Iraq because of their alleged Iranian citizenship. Iran has been sympathetic to their plight.

In 1991, all refugees left Iraq in the spring and were actually returning to Iraq by October 1991. For an Iraqi refugee to cross at that time into Iran and establish himself in Shiraz and open a business means that the person likely spoke Farsi and had good connections in Iran. Kurdish refugees who fled Iraq to Iran in 1991 and 1996 were placed in camps with tents surrounded by barbed wire and security forces. No one was allowed to enter or exit without permission. The security was important and there was very little freedom of movement. Kurd refugees in northern Iran were not well-treated by the government, whereas Shia who fled to southern Iran had much better conditions as they were living in military barracks and could enter end exit freely.

Additional and/or corroborating information could not be found within the time constraints of this Response.

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 to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


U.S. Committee for Refugees, Gulf researcher, Washington. 3 May 1999. Telephone interview.

Additional Sources Consulted

Electronic sources: Internet, LEXIS-NEXIS, WNC.

Two oral sources did not have information on this subject.