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Michael Ireland is an international British freelance journalist. A former reporter with a London newspaper, Michael is Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service of Lake Forest, California. Michael immigrated to the United States in 1982 and became a US citizen in September, 1995. He is married with two adult children. Michael has also been a frequent contributor to United Christian Broadcasters , a British Christian radio station. His stories for ASSIST News may be viewed at ASSIST News Service Michael's writing activities are a sponsored ministry department -- Michael Ireland Media Missionary (MIMM) -- of Artists in Christian Testimony (ACT) International where you can donate online to his stated mission of 'Truth Through Christian Journalism.'

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Program that Provides Refugee Status for Persecuted Christians to be cut

Congress Prepares to End Program that Assists Persecuted Iranian Christians

Washington, D.C. (June 1, 2011) – An expense-free humanitarian program called the Lautenberg Amendment, which provides refugee status to persecuted Christians and that has received bipartisan support for over 20 years, is due to be axed by Congress.

The Washington, D.C.-based International Christian Concern - ICC (http://www.persecution.org/ / Email: icc@persecution.org), says the amendment grants heavily persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in Iran a safe avenue to apply for refugee status.

In a media release, ICC says: "Without the program, persecuted Iranian Christians who are unable to flee the country will likely face imprisonment or execution. The Lautenberg Amendment has rescued persecuted Christians, Baha’is and Jews from Iran since 2003 by establishing a clear standard for processing refugee applications submitted by religious minorities.

"Because the U.S. does not have an embassy in Tehran, the program allows the Austrian Embassy to issue special visas that allow persecuted minorities into Austria in order to be interviewed at the U.S. Embassy in Vienna. The program does not require the expenditure of funds, nor does it increase the number of refugees admitted into the U.S. The program simply offers Iranian applicants who are members of a persecuted religious group the same opportunity to be granted refugee status in the U.S. that is given to applicants in other countries throughout the world."

ICC says Rep. Lamar Smith, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, is calling for oversight of this amendment and all immigration policies, which could lead to the end of the program in Iran.

ICC stated: "If the program is not renewed, 688 persecuted Iranian minorities who have already begun the refugee application process will be trapped in Iran and may be arrested along with the 254 Christians who have been arrested since June 2010.

"One of the imprisoned, Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, was issued the death sentence for apostasy in September."

Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “In early April, ICC requested that Christians call Rep. Lamar Smith’s office to express their concerns. While the program was successfully extended until June, it is once again under review.

"Without the program’s quick renewal, Austria may stop issuing visas and force Iranian Christians to pursue more dangerous options to avoid imprisonment and possible execution. We urge the U.S. Congress to save countless lives by permanently renewing the Lautenberg Amendment to assure religious minorities in Iran that their applications will be reviewed and processed.”

Please call Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, to express your concern for the immediate safety of Iranian persecuted minorities and for immigration policy that guarantees their access to the U.S. Embassy in Vienna: (202) 225-4236.

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You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference ICC (International Christian Concern) and include our web address, http://www.persecution.org/.

ICC is a Washington-DC based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.

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