A group of Iranian refugees who had fled to Austria is suing the Trump administration after their applications for asylum in the U.S. were denied.
The group is about 90 people, including dozens of Assyrian and Armenian Christians and other religious minorities. They filed a class action lawsuit last week in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
The group is hoping to be granted asylum in the U.S. under the Lautenberg Amendment, which was passed in 1989 to help resettle Jews from the former Soviet Union. Under the amendment, other refugees have been able to enter the U.S.
Under the program, U.S. residents apply on behalf of a family member who is an Iranian citizen. Refugees who pass an initial screening are welcomed to Vienna where they wait for the U.S. to finish screening the application.
The group of 90 in Austria says they have been in Vienna for about a year. Earlier this year, the group was told their applications for asylum had been denied.
It’s unclear why the application was denied, but previously, the U.S. has said they were working to find another solution so the refugees will not have to return to Iran.
“The denial has had a terrible impact on me and my family. My son suffers from repeated epileptic attacks and congenital hydrocephalus, requiring regular medical attention which we do not have access to here in Austria," one of the refugees said in the court filing. "Furthermore, because we had initially anticipated our stay in Austria to last only three to six months, we have run out of savings and are in dire financial straits. I am anxious to travel to the U.S. and be reunited with my in-laws."
Attorneys from the law firm Latham & Watkins and representatives from the International Refugee Assistance Project at the Urban Justice Center said the application was rejected “as a matter of discretion.”
"The U.S. government extended a helping hand to these Iranian Christians, Mandeans, and other persecuted religious minorities who wanted to join their family members in the United States, only to cruelly whip it away for no discernible reason at all," IRAP's litigation director, Mariko Hirose, said in a statement. "The government's conduct betrays America's long-standing commitment to be a beacon of religious freedom, as embodied by the Lautenberg Amendment."
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Publication date: April 27, 2018