Religious Minorities under Attack in Iran Need Protections, Urges Hultgren
Washington, DC – U.S. Representative Randy Hultgren (IL-14), Executive Committee-member of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, has joined his colleagues in urging senior congressional leaders to reauthorize an amendment that preserves a secure pathway to asylum for persecuted religious minority groups in Iran. Known as the “Lautenberg Amendment,” this lifeline provides expedited refugee processing for people recognized by the State Department as “at-risk” groups living in Iran, predominantly Christians, Baha’is, and Jews. Rep. Hultgen made a similar request last year, and such language was included in the FY2016 appropriations legislation.
“Repeatedly the Islamic Republic of Iran has engaged in ‘systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom’ and has imposed its extremist views upon all Iranians through ‘prolonged detention, torture, and executions,’ regardless of the faith of its citizens. Religious minorities need this pathway of hope and protection from the oppressive Iranian regime,” said Rep. Hultgren.
“Without the safeguards provided by the Lautenberg Amendment, safe transit countries like Austria may no longer be willing to provide visas to allow religious minorities to be processed on their soil,” the letter reads. “With no U.S. Embassy in Tehran, persecuted individuals would be forced to flee to dangerous neighboring countries where conditions for asylum seekers are extremely unsafe and access to resettlement is uncertain. We urge your continued support to include the Lautenberg Amendment in the FY2017 funding bill and thus preserve a safe and reliable mechanism for vulnerable religious minorities to escape harm’s way.”
Since its enactment in 1990, this program has served as one of the only means of escape for people who face credible danger in a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) simply for practicing their religious faiths. The program does not expand the U.S. refugee resettlement program, but rather eases the burden of proof for the applicant only after the State Department has invited a particular group to apply for refugee status for “reasons of humanitarian concern.” Without the Lautenberg Amendment, U.S. refugee processing in Austria of Iranian Christians, Jews, and Baha’i would be limited or even terminated. This will leave no safe way for these persecuted people to flee Iran for an opportunity to practice their faith without fear of reprisal.