Protesting asylum seekers have professional support

The Danish Refugee Council has voiced concern over the control that a pro-asylum organisation has over 11 Iranians protesting outside parliament, some of whom are on hunger strike

A radical asylum campaigning group called Asylret (The Right to Asylum) has taken complete control of an ongoing campaign being waged by a group of Iranian asylum seekers, Jyllands-Posten newspaper revealed today.

According to the newspaper, the 11 Iranian asylum seekers currently protesting outside parliament have the support of Asylret, while another group of 12 Iranians that are protesting outside Sandholm Asylum Centre do not.

According to the spokesperson for the Sandholm group, they wanted the help of Asylret but turned it down after being given an ultimatum.

“Asylret said, ‘Okay, but we have to be in charge of everything,’” spokesperson Mehdi Ghasghezadeh told Jyllands-Posten. “We wanted to be in charge and speak our case.”

Initial reports suggested that the group outside parliament were all on hunger strike after having had their asylum cases rejected. Jyllands-Posten now reports, however, that four have given up their hunger strikes, two are still awaiting the outcome of their asylum cases and another two are having their asylum cases processed in Germany.

The Iranians outside parliament have not had easy time with their protest. After first moving into Stefan’s Church on May 23, they were asked to leave by the church council less than a week later. Last Tuesday, they then moved into an unoccupied room in the political community centre Demokratihuset, though they did not last long before the building’s owner, the City Council, told them the rooms were not suitable for living in and asked them to leave.

Officially the council accused the Iranians of trespassing. Police were called but the Iranians left on Saturday before the noon deadline, taking taxis to outside Christiansborg, where they have continued their protest since.

But they had not been outside parliament long on Saturday before they were assaulted by a far-right skinhead. Video shot by TV2 News shows a man in a burgundy bomber jacket and a shaved head fighting with some of the protestors before walking away and picking up a cobblestone with which he threatened the group. TV2 News also reported that the man shouted Nazi slogans.

Far-right groups have been increasing their anti-Islamic rhetoric in recent months as was witnessed by the attempt by the English Defence League to start a pan-European anti-Islamic movement this March in Aarhus. The Iranians are all Christians, however, and fear religious persecution from the Islamic regime should they return.

A spokesperson for Asylret, the organisation supporting the Iranians outside Christiansborg, explained that their protest was more than simply an attempt to draw attention to the failed asylum cases of some of the protesters.

“It is a protest against the politicians in Iran,” Said Parvin told Jyllands-Posten. “We are here because of the terrible conditions in Iran created by the clerical rule. That is why we are here in Denmark. We want Iran to be politically and economically boycotted.”

He added: “Our second goal is that Denmark complies with the Refugee Convention from 1951 and our third is that there is more democracy in the Refugee Appeals Board.”

The Refugee Appeals Board is the quasi-judicial organisation that considers the appeals of asylum seekers who have had their claims rejected by the Immigration Services.

The control that Parvin and Asylret are maintaining over the hunger strikers has drawn concern from the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), who were called in by Stefan’s Church to offer assistance while the asylum seekers were seeking refuge there.

The Iranians refused to speak to the DRC without the presence of representatives from Asylret, however, much to the disappointment of the DRC’s general secretary, Andreas Kamm.

“We have helped lots of people,” he told Jyllands-Posten. “For example, we have stopped repatriations to Greece. But we offer legal help and do not encourage people to hunger strike.”

Kamm added that the Iranians still needed legal help and expressed bewilderment at the actions taken by the non-rejected Iranians on hunger strike.

“It’s difficult to understand why they have felt pressured to hunger strike,” he said.

Parvin, however, denied that he encouraged the Iranians to take up their hunger strike. Parvin refers to himself as a communist and on Asylret's website it says its members are humanists and left-wing activists.

Asylum seekers across Denmark started hunger striking several weeks ago. At its peak, about 80 asylum seekers were on hunger strike, but according to Jyllands-Posten between 50 and 60 have since stopped.

Some of the asylum seekers have been in Denmark for years while they await the completion of their asylum cases. During that time they are excluded from the workforce and often have to live in asylum centres that are located far from major cities.