Published in German daily “Tagesspiegel” on 29 July 2010
Source (German):
English translation: @germantoenglish

By Ferda Ataman, Andrea Dernbach

They have experienced most horrible tortures. Now they arrived in Berlin, where they are to be integrated. Erhart Körting, Berlin’s Senator for the interior, is one of the people who are advocating for them and their concerns.

They were beaten by the authorities, raped, tortured with electroshocks, and shot at. Now Germany offers a new home to 50 Iranian human rights activists, ten of them will stay in Berlin. Not all of them have arrived yet, the eighth refugee arrived in the German capital on Tuesday, two others are to follow within the next days. “Some well-known human rights activists are among them”, said Hajo Funke, a professor of political science at the Free University who takes care of the traumatized Iranians in the newly established association “Flüchtlingshilfe Iran” (“refugee aid Iran”).

Some of the refugees are students and people with no history of political activity, who protested following the rigged presidential elections that took place about one year ago, and were therefore persecuted by the authorities. Thousands of refugees fled Iran after the 2009 unrest. In late 2009, more than 4,200 refugees in need for protection were registered by UNHCR in Turkey. Although Turkey does not deport the asylum seekers from Iran, the Turkish government does not feel responsible for them. Their situation in Turkey is precarious.

“The students and journalists are extremely happy that they have escaped the dangerous situation after so many months”, says Funke, referring to the Iranian refugees. They are supposed to be accommodated at lowest possible costs. Currently they are staying at the homes of friends or at hostels, but the goal is to enable them to stand on their own feet soon. The helpers from the refugee aid association are currently obtaining identity cards, filling in forms – “they are bustling day in, day out”, says Funke. Until they are provided with all necessary documents that enable them to lead an independent life in Berlin, the refugees depend on unconventional support. For example, a physician is treating the refugees, who are traumatized and sometimes injured, without a health insurance card. A psychosocial supervisor has offered his help. “Since the refugees arrived, everything has turned out surprisingly positive”, says Funke.

Since January, this political scientist at the Otto-Suhr-Institute together with exiled Iranians has been in touch with politicians, advocating for a solution for Iranian refugees in Turkey. The feedback from Erhart Körting, Senator of the interior, was positive: In March, Körting even urged the conference of interior ministers to admit 50 instead of 20 refugees in Germany. Berlin, Hamburg, and the state of North-Rhine-Westphalia have admitted the highest number of refugees from Iran.

These Iranians are the second group of contingent refugees admitted in the past years. In 2009, Berlin already had accepted 125 Iranian refugees, most of them Christians. Berlin hopes to integrate them by providing good support for them. Both groups will not be listed in the statistics as refugees. They receive a two year residence permit that is to be prolonged.

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