Iranians on hunger strike over Swiss refugee refusal

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GENEVA: Three Iranian asylum seekers have been on a hunger strike in Switzerland for over a week in protest against Bern’s refusal so far to grant them refugee status, a spokesman said Monday.

The three Iranians, who had fled their country over what they described as political and, or religious persecution, stopped eating on different dates — on June 2, 21 and 26.

They fled to Switzerland over the past decade, with Farhad Bazrafkan arriving in 2007, Kaveh Mikmaran in 2008 while Barham Gharianluo has been living in Switzerland for more than eight and a half years.

While their request for asylum in Switzerland has been refused, they cannot be expelled as Bern has no repatriation treaty with Iran, Maurizio Coppola, a spokesman for a committee supporting the trio told AFP.

The Iranians are protesting against the "inhumane" conditions in which they have been subject to, said Coppola, adding that the asylum seekers receive just eight francs a day from the state for subsistence.

"There is a contradiction in Switzerland — on one hand the authorities refuse to grant them refugee status, on the other hand, they cannot expel them," said the spokesman.

Coppola added that two of the asylum seekers have filed appeals with the country’s highest court, the Federal Tribunal, against Bern’s refusal to grant refugee status.

"Barham Gharianluo meanwhile wants to put forward a new request. By undertaking a hunger strike, they hope to accelerate the process," said Coppola.

Michael Glauser, spokesman for the Federal Office of Migration, confirmed that there was no repatriation accord with Iran, but declined comment on the individual cases of the three asylum seekers.

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