Denied Refugee Status in US, Iranians are Stuck in Limbo

Clara Costa, Editor

With ongoing crisis occurring in Iran, many members of minority groups are being forced to flee their country, leaving all of their possessions and hoping for the best.

Many Iranian citizens are now stranded in Vienna, due to the United States not granting them Refugee status. Most have been stranded in Austria for more than a year, and will not be able to return home. It is too great of a risk because the Iranian government now views them as enemies of the state.

The program that the Iranians were planning on utilizing to find refuge in the United States was one set up through the Lautenberg Amendment of 1989, which allowed persecuted religious minorities a safe haven in the US. The law was originally created to help Jewish and Christian members to flee from the Soviet Union, but the number of refugees admitted has dwindled with the new administration in office.

Many refugees are now relying on the Roman Catholic Church for services. These services include lodging and medical treatment, because of their status, they are not able to apply for work.

Iran used to recognize religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Zoroastrianism as protected religions. Now that they continue to violate religious freedoms, it is becoming more prevalent that Shiite Islam is soon to be the only one accepted.

In late January, Democratic and Republican House Representatives from Massachusetts and Illinois urged Vice President Mike Pence to expedite the approval process of Iranians. They were denied, the reason from the Department of Homeland Security being “a matter of discretion”.

As a student of a Catholic Institution, I appreciate the actions being taken by the Roman Catholic Church of Vienna. I love to see the human family helping their neighbors as this process continues, and I do hope for the best for these Iranian refugees as this process continues.

For many of these people, this process was a major, and ethical attempt to reach their families. As a community we should support them in their journeys they try to find refuge and safety from persecution.