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Washington, D.C. (May 13, 2011) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that seven Afghan Christians and their families who fled their homeland to India and were requesting refugee status were denied their requests by the UN in recent weeks and face deportation back to Afghanistan, where they risk arrest and possible execution for apostasy.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) rejected or closed the applications of seven Afghan Christian families and individuals seeking refugee status in India after fleeing religious persecution in Afghanistan. Among the applicants was Aman, a husband and father of four, who has since received a letter authorizing his deportation from the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs.

Aman and his wife converted to Christianity from Islam eleven years ago, after which Aman studied at Zaraphat Bible College in Rawalpindi, Pakistan before returning to Afghanistan to work with an aid organization in Kabul. He fled the country to India after an Afghan television network broadcast footage of Afghans being baptized and participating in prayer services in May 2010. The broadcast led to protests throughout the country and a government crackdown against Afghan converts to Christianity.

After applying for asylum in India, Aman was told by the Deputy Chief of Mission at the UNCHR office in New Delhi on April 12 that he would be granted refugee status. However, a letter issued on May 6 stated that he had been denied based on failure to meet the criteria set forth in Article 6B of the UNHCR Statute which states that a person can receive refugee status if, “[he has a] well-founded fear of persecution by reason of his race, religion, nationality or political opinion and is unable or, because of such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of the government of the country of his nationality.”

“The UNHCR office brutally closed and rejected some refugee applications of our community,” said a leader of the Afghan Christian community in New Delhi. “This is happening after all our efforts to inform and convince the UNHCR office that it is impossible to live as an Afghan Christian in Afghanistan if your Christian identity is revealed to the public and to the Afghan Islamic Republic. Apostasy is considered as a crime, an illegal action and a sin which is punishable by death by the Islamic Sharia Law that is the base of the Afghan Constitution.”

“Our community is a persecuted and rejected community,” the leader continued. “We left behind all our belongings in Afghanistan just to save our lives by leaving Afghanistan. Here in India, we are receiving no legal and physical protection from the UNHCR office or the Indian Government. We are harassed, attacked, insulted and persecuted by Indian Muslims and thousands of Afghan Muslim refugees in this city.”

Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “As seen in the recent cases of Said Musa and Shoaib Assadullah, there are severe penalties under Afghan law, including imprisonment and potential execution, for Afghans who convert from Islam to Christianity. Aman, his family, and others whose applications were denied, will likely face a cruel punishment if they are forced to return to Afghanistan. We urge the UNHCR to reconsider these applications and for the Indian government to offer refuge to persecuted minorities who have fled to India for asylum.”

Write or call the UNHCR office in New Delhi to express your concern:

Ms. Montserrat Feixas Vihe, Chief of Mission
UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees)
14 Jor Bagh, New Delhi – 110 003

Fax: 0091 1143530460
Tel: 0091 1143530428 / 0091 1143530424

Applicants Name and Application Number: Aman, HCR/PL/513 – 10C01212

For interviews, contact Aidan Clay, Regional Manager for the Middle East: [email protected].