In February, around 100 Iranian refugees living in Austria who had appealed for asylum in the US had their applications rejected. Most of the group are Christians. It has now emerged that days after they were told they would not be allowed to enter the US under the Lautenberg humanitarian programme, Austrian police raided the homes of some of the refugees.
Police officers searched two apartments in Vienna on 21 February and confiscated the Iranians’ passports, informing the refugees that they were in Austria illegally and faced deportation.
“We have been here one and a half years, and besides being in transit, we are waiting so long. We were told we would be in the US months ago. Seeing [police] officers show up is another stress, so now we jump at every noise. At any time they can come and take us away,” said one refugee.
The cases of some of the refugees are still “under investigation”, but between 76 – 80 have received formal notices of the denial of their applications. They were given two weeks to leave Austria or face potential deportation back to Iran; that deadline expired at the start of March 2018, and the refugees now live with the looming threat of being sent back to a country where they were the targets of discrimination and persecution.