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Outside View: Return to Ashraf
by Struan Stevenson
Brussels (UPI) Feb 21, 2013


disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

The Friends of a Free Iran intergroup in the European Parliament, which enjoys the active support of more than over 200 members of parliament from different political groups, had an urgent news conference highlighting the recent rocket attack on Iranian dissidents in Camp Liberty in Iraq.

The camp occupied by 3,100 asylum-seekers and refugees was attacked by 40 missiles on Feb. 9, an assault that resulted in the deaths of seven people and injuries -- many critical -- to more than 100.

At the news conference, the author, who is chairman of the FOFI and president of the European Parliament's Delegation for relations with Iraq, of this article said: "There is strong intelligence that this vicious attack against these defenseless refugees was carried out by the terrorist Quds force of the Iranian regime with the help and coordination of the Iraqi government.

"Camp Liberty is situated in a military zone and one has to go through seven check points to get there.

"This was a well-organized assault, which required Iraqi assistance to succeed. Iraq has officially announced that it cannot guarantee their security and cannot prevent further rocket attacks on Liberty. This is a clear indication of their ominous intentions to coordinate further attacks."

The members of the European Parliament emphasized:

-- The most urgent issue is the security of the residents in Camp Liberty who may face similar tragedies at any moment. The first step is to return them to Ashraf, their home of 26 years, which is much more secure against such attacks being 80 times larger than the half-square-kilometer prison of Camp Liberty. Then they can be transferred to third countries.

The European Parliament in its May 2011 Plan had insisted on the transfer of the residents from Ashraf to safe third countries but unfortunately the Iraqi government and the U.N. envoy Martin Kobler refused and forced the residents to move to Liberty in line with the demands of Tehran. This left these people vulnerable to many dangers and instead of focusing on resettlement, wasted unaccountable energies and resources for this destructive and pointless displacement.

-- In August 2011, after a proposal by High Commissioner Antonio Guterres, all Ashraf residents submitted their individual asylum applications to UNHCR. At that time Ashraf residents had asked for all of them to be declared refugees as a group but that didn't happen. Now after 18 months, the UNHCR, as a preventive measure, must declare the residents as political refugees as soon as possible. This action is long overdue.

-- The MEPs strongly criticized the silence, inaction and extremely passive role of Baroness Ashton, the EU high commissioner for Foreign Affairs. They called on her to condemn the regimes of Iran and Iraq for crimes against humanity in Camp Liberty and to mobilize the European Union and the EEAS for the immediate return of the residents to Ashraf, and to assure them of their refugee status and their rapid resettlement.

-- The Iranian regime is in a crisis and as the presidential election gets nearer, desperately needs to attack its main opposition. So time is running out and as the threat of new attacks against the residents grows, their transfer to Ashraf and their rapid re-settlement to countries of safety must be concluded without delay.

(Struan Stevenson is a Conservative Euro Member of Parliament from Scotland. He is president of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq. He also is chairman of the "Friends of a Free Iran" group in European Parliament.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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