Austrian police raid homes of Iranian Christian refugees
International | Despite the promise of asylum in the United States, the group faces deportation
by Mindy Belz
Posted 2/21/18, 04:58 pm
AUSTRIA: Austrian police on Wednesday raided an apartment building in Vienna, where some of a group of 100 mostly Christian Iranians have resided for more than a year, pending final approval for asylum in the United States. Police seized most documents and passports and are threatening the Iranians with deportation following a U.S. decision to deny asylum to some or all of the refugees, sources close to the cases told me.
The Iranians came to Vienna at the invitation of the U.S. State Department, and with “conditional approval” to come as refugees to the United States. The cases fall under a special category called the Lautenberg Amendment for Iranians—a category not covered by President Donald Trump’s executive orders last year on travel bans and reduced refugee resettlement. Yet the Trump administration has been slowing the processing of the cases, and is not taking any new cases—meaning the Iranians have run up against tough and at times unclear Trump administration directives coupled with a new Austrian government that ran on anti-refugee sentiments. Returning to Iran “could be a death sentence for these persecuted Christians and other minorities,” said one human rights expert.
SYRIA: Government airstrikes on a Damascus suburb have killed more than 250 people since Sunday—the highest 48-hour death toll in Eastern Ghouta since a 2013 chemical weapons attack threatened to prompt U.S. missile strikes. With seven hospitals bombed and more than 700 people wounded, UNICEF issued on Tuesday a mostly blank statement, saying only “no words will do justice to the children killed.” This isn’t mindless carnage, this is a power struggle the Bashar al-Assad regime is using among outside forces—Turkey, Iran, Russia, others—who view Syria’s people as tools. And, as experts repeat, the U.S. strategy is incoherent and it’s “not even clear who our allies are anymore.”
Plus American diplomacy is absent, hamstrung by the loss of U.S. influence since Russia intervened in support of Assad in 2015 and by a vacuum in the Syria office at the U.S. State Department. The last Syria envoy departed in March and has not been replaced.
BRITAIN: Government-funded aid groups face a Feb. 26 deadline to assure the British aid minister they are combating sexual harassment and abuse, as fallout from an Oxfam scandal grows. Oxfam says it is investigating 26 new cases of sexual misconduct that have been reported since a scandal broke earlier this month over its handling of a 2011 case in Haiti.
RUSSIA: U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller’s Friday indictment of 13 Russians over interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election shows how thoroughly social media companies like Facebook are being played by Russian propagandists, and how little they seem to be doing about it.
Amid all the smoke and fog on Trump and Russia, there seems to be less disagreement that Mueller, in the words of Axios’ Mike Allen, is “doing deep, serious investigative work—totally under the radar, and with zero leaks.” That makes it harder to take seriously Trump’s insistence Russian involvement is “a hoax,” but also hard to take seriously award-winning New York Times columnists who cover the waterfront on the implications … without mentioning President Barack Obama, who was in office when it all began.
SAUDI ARABIA: Trump’s tough rhetoric may be having an effect not only on new Saudi leadership but also on European countries like Belgium, which is taking steps to halt Saudi Wahhabi imports.
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Mindy wrote WORLD Magazine's first cover story in 1986 and went on to serve as international editor, editor, and now senior editor. She has covered wars in Syria, Afganistan, Africa, and the Balkans, and she recounts some of her experiences in They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Mindy resides with her husband, Nat, in Asheville, N.C. Follow her on Twitter @mcbelz.