Letter: Political persecution continues in Romania

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Sir: Britain has a proud record in sheltering political refugees. Even today - in spite of concern over a mass exodus from the former Soviet Union - each application for political asylum is supposed to be considered on its own merit.

Unfortunately, there have been a number of recent cases involving Romanian refugees where this tradition was not evident. Admittedly, the Home Office may have some difficulty in accepting uncorroborated evidence of past suffering, but the very same kind of evidence was usually accepted during the Ceausescu regime. Why is it not accepted now?

The reason appears to be the opinion of the Foreign Office - accepted by the Home Office - that there is no longer any political persecution in Romania and therefore that no one can entertain reasonable fears that upon being forced to return to Romania, he or she will suffer at the hands of the authorities. Yet there is ample evidence that Ceausescu's secret police - the Securitate - is run even now by the same thugs, though it has changed its name to the 'Romanian Information Service'. It pursues its nefarious activities unhindered, though unofficially, and its victims are no longer formally charged, judged and sentenced. Instead, opponents of the present regime are apprehended, beaten up, bullied and encouraged to leave the country. Mysterious car accidents occur.

To suggest, as the Home Office does, that those who have a record of opposing the present regime have nothing to fear if they return is callous nonsense. Yet this is now almost invariably the reason given for turning down such applications for political asylum. Of course, the applicants can appeal, but lately most of such appeals have been unsuccessful.

We appeal to the new Home Secretary to take an interest in these refugees and to instruct his officials to adopt a more compassionate and informed attitude in dealing with Romanian asylum seekers. He has the power to allow these unfortunate people to remain here on the basis of 'exceptional leave' and we hope he will exercise this in favour of those who have lost their appeals, because his officials do not seem to understand what is going on in Romania.

Yours faithfully,

NICOLAE RATIU

President, World Union of

Free Romanians - UK

EUGENIU DINESCU

Editor, 'The Free Romanian'

London, W1

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