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Iranian Christian Asylum Seekers Are Still Stuck in Limbo

NPR has a follow-up report on the predominantly Christian Iranian asylum seekers stranded in Vienna:

As Christians all over the world celebrate Easter weekend, dozens of fellow faithful are growing weary — waiting for the virtual gates of America’s refugee services to reopen.

More than 100 Iranian Christians and members of other religions have been stranded in Austria for over a year, after the U.S. program that welcomes religious minorities from Iran has all but shut its door under President Trump, refugee advocates say. Eighty Iranians who traveled to Vienna expecting to be resettled in the United States have already been denied asylum in America. Others are awaiting final U.S. approval.

The rejection puts the applicants at risk, has angered members of Congress from both parties and devastated U.S. family sponsors.

Unfortunately, things have not improved since I first wrote about this story a little over a month ago. These people traveled to Vienna because the U.S. gave them every reason to expect that they would be allowed to come here. Under U.S. law, religious minorities escaping persecution are not only allowed to come, but the government must provide a compelling reason why they cannot if their request is denied. To date, the Trump administration has offered no explanation or justification for why it has so far rejected the requests of eighty people.

It is disgraceful to slam the door in their faces, and to do it after they have waited for so long and have already left their home behind is exceptionally cruel. They cannot return home because they would face punishment from the government, and there is no good reason why they can’t come to America. Keeping these Iranians from receiving asylum in the United States will do them enormous harm and it is entirely unnecessary. Especially when they have relatives already here willing to vouch for them, it makes no sense to deny their requests for asylum.

The case of these Iranians makes a mockery of the administration’s own rhetoric about protecting religious minorities. The U.S. should not bar the way to innocent people fleeing persecution. The administration needs to reconsider and approve the requests of the asylum seekers they rejected immediately and approve the rest without further delay.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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