Iran will welcome its citizens returning from Australia, but will not force them to come or help pay their expenses, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on the eve of a trip to Australia.
Speaking at the Institute of International Affairs’ conference in New Zealand on Monday, Zarif said Iran believed that those “who have left the country for probably economic reasons to have a better life in Australia or elsewhere are always welcome to come back,” the Stuff.co.nz news website reported.
“If citizens want to come back to Iran, then we will accept them with open arms.”
But he said Iran “will not take anybody back to Iran against their will” unless they were a wanted criminal.
“We are ready to encourage Iranians in Australia … while we believe their rights should be respected and their personality should be respected and they should not be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment,” he said.
“But we are ready to tell them that nothing awaits them of punishment in Iran, to encourage them to go back to Iran. But we will not impose on them to come back, we will not pressure them to come back to Iran.”
The Foreign Ministry says it will give citizens returning a letter allowing them to return to Iran but not provide them with financial assistance to help pay their expenses, including the money to buy the return ticket.
“Those who advertised for them to go should give them money to come back.”
West Is to Blame
Zarif pointed the finger of blame at Australia and other western governments for creating the environment that saw people drawn to their countries.
He said he had told the Australian government and others they had to be careful when they made statements about Iran.
“Iran is the only country in the region that has serious elections, probably with the exception of Turkey.”
A lot had been said about human rights situation in Iran and Zarif said he did not argue there was no room for improvement.
“But people here in the West created an image of Iran—we are the only country in the region that has elections and we are the only country in the region that has a special rapporteur on human rights. Isn’t that a contradiction?”
Zarif noted that this seriously questions the credibility of the United Nation’s human rights machinery.
“This is the price you will have to pay. You advertised that Iran violated human rights. So you get people who want to take refuge in other societies from our [alleged] human rights abuses. So what are you complaining about? Isn’t that a genuine question to be asked?”
Australia is pressing for a deal that would see hundreds of asylum seekers who have had their claims rejected sent back to Iran amid reports Australia will secure guarantees that returned asylum seekers would not face any punishment.