An Iranian man who sought asylum in Australia after converting from Islam to Christianity has been deported to Tehran, a refugee advocacy group said Wednesday. According to Refugee Action Coalition, the manwhose identity was not released due to fears for his safetyhas a "high likelihood" of being killed in Iran, where activists say Christian converts are routinely persecuted and often put to death.
"There are documented cases of people not getting out of Tehran airport after they've landed," said Ian Rintoul, a spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition. "So we have very serious concerns about this guy."
Rintoul said the 30-year-old asylum-seeker, who arrived in Australia by boat four years ago, was placed on a flight late Tuesday from Sydney to Dubai, from where he would be transported to Iran.
According to the Associated Press, the Department of Immigration declined to confirm if he had been removed from Australia, however a department spokesman said that all asylum seekers' claims were carefully assessed on their merits, and that no asylum seekers would be deported unless the government was satisfied they would not face persecution.
Such decisions "do not rely on sweeping and superficial generalizations that particular countries are either safe or unsafe for own nationals," the spokesman said, as reported by AP.
According to Amnesty International, which campaigns for internationally recognized human rights, persecution of Christian converts was common in Iran, and that many Western countries consider this when assessing asylum requests.
"It's pretty much universally accepted in most countries that converts will face persecution if their conversion is discovered when they return to Iran," said Amnesty International's refugee coordinator in Australia, Graham Thom.
Since 1999, the U.S. Secretary of State has designated Iran as a "Country of Particular Concern" under the International Religious Freedom Act for its particularly severe violations of religious freedom.
According to the U.S. State Departments International Religious Freedom Report, freedom of religion is restricted by the Iranian Government, whose Constitution declares the "official religion of Iran is Islam, and the doctrine followed is that of Ja'fari (Twelver) Shi'ism."