Fiji clarifies Iranian refugee saga

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The Fijian government deported Loghman Sawari an Iranian refugee on February 3, 2017, saying that his bona fides were questionable.

The background

ABC News reported that Sawari had fled Australia’s offshore detention regime in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and was being treated in a hospital.

“He was deported from Fiji on February 3, after spending 10 days in that country. His lawyer had said he intended to seek asylum in Fiji, but Sawari was arrested while on his way to a meeting with immigration officials, taken to the airport and sent back to PNG, where the local Police charged him with giving false information in his application for a PNG passport.

“The 20-year-old was brought to the Court in Port Moresby to apply for bail, but there was a problem with his bail application and the matter was deferred. Sawari was visibly upset and shaking while he waited to apply for bail.

“I am not a criminal, I am a refugee, do you understand what that is?” he said.

“He showed journalists apparent self-harm injuries on his arm and said he had developed serious mental health problems from his detention and deportation.”

Attorney General Speaks

Fijian Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said in a statement that Sawari had breached Fiji’s immigration law.

The following is his Statement issued on February 2, 2017:

Loghman Sawari was deported from Fiji to Papua New Guinea today after entering Fiji on a Papua New Guinean passport.

He is claiming to be a refugee but did not present himself as a refugee seeking asylum to immigration officials on arrival in Fiji. Nor, after ten days, did he lodge an application for asylum, personally or through his lawyer.

UNHCR rejects

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has advised Fiji that Sawari is not recognised as a refugee under the UNHCR mandate. It has further advised that he is a refugee recognised by Papua New Guinea under its national procedures. So, Fiji has merely returned Sawari to his rightful place of residence.
Sawari eluded the authorities during his ten days in Fiji while posting photographs of himself on social media at various locations.

Under international law, anyone who is seeking political asylum is required to lodge an application without delay. In the case of Sawari, this did not happen.

His lawyer, who has been publicly advocating his position through the media, failed to facilitate a prompt application required under international conventions pertaining to applications for refugee status.

Officials in Fiji have been informed by their Papua New Guinean counterparts that Sawari’s Papua New Guinea passport was obtained by fraudulent means.

Breach of Fijian law

On this basis, Sawari was also in breach of Fijian law which states that “A person who knowingly misleads or attempts to mislead any immigration officer in relation to any matter material to the performance or exercise by any immigration officer of any duty, function, power or discretion…commits an offence.”

The government notes that Sawari is claiming that he feared for his life. This begs the question as to why for ten days he failed to file an application for asylum. Despite several attempts by the Immigration Department to engage with Sawari, these attempts were ignored.

Fiji remains fully committed to the Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, but we cannot tolerate a situation in which a person who is not an asylum seeker and who has already been granted refugee status in another country flagrantly violates the law.


Photo Caption:

Loghman Safari outside the Court

(Courtesy: ABC Picture by Eric Tiozek)

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