UK advises dual nationals against all travel to Iran – The Guardian

The UK has upgraded its travel advice to British-Iranian dual nationals, for the first time advising against all travel to Iran.

The advice also urges Iranian nationals living in the UK to exercise caution if they decide to travel to Iran.

The latest tightening of the Foreign Office travel advice comes in the wake of the sentencing of Aras Amiri, an Iranian national who worked for the British Council in London, to 10 years in jail on charges of spying for the UK.

Aras Amiri.



Aras Amiri. Photograph: Family photo

The Foreign Office had in September warned dual nationals against all but essential travel, the first time it had provided specific travel advice for a particular group of British people, due to the treatment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a dual national found guilty of spying by the Iranian government more than three years ago.

The foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said: “Dual nationals face an intolerable risk of mistreatment if they visit Iran. Despite the UK providing repeated opportunities to resolve this issue, the Iranian regime’s conduct has worsened.

Timeline

Imprisonment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in Iran

3 April 2016

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is arrested at Imam Khomeini airport as she is trying to return to Britain after a holiday visiting family with her daughter, Gabriella.

12 July 2016

Her husband, Richard Radcliffe, delivers a letter to David Cameron in 10 Downing Street, demanding the government do more for her release.

9 September 2016

She is sentenced to five years in jail. Her husband says the exact charges are still being kept a secret.

November 2016

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s health deteriorates after she spends several days on hunger strike in protest at her imprisonment.

24 April 2017

Iran’s supreme court upholds her conviction.

1 November 2017

Boris Johnson, then Foreign Secretary, tells a parliamentary select committee “When we look at what [she] was doing, she was simply teaching people journalism”. Four days after his comments, Zaghari-Ratcliffe is returned to court, where his statement is cited in evidence against her. Her employers, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, deny that she has ever trained journalists, and her family maintain she was in Iran on holiday. Johnson is eventually forced to apologise for the “distress and anguish” his comments cause the family.

12 November 2017

Her husband reveals that Zaghari-Ratcliffe has fears for her health after lumps had been found in her breasts that required an ultrasound scan, and that she was now “on the verge of a nervous breakdown”.

3 August 2018

New Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt meets with Richard Ratcliffe, and pledges “We will do everything we can to bring her home.”

23 August 2018

She is granted a temporary three day release from prison.

14 January 2019

Zaghari-Ratcliffe is on hunger strike again, in protest at the withdrawal of her medical care.

8 March 2019

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt takes the unusual step of granting her diplomatic protection – a move that raises her case from a consular matter to the level of a dispute between the two states.

“Having exhausted all other options, I must now advise all British-Iranian dual nationals against travelling to Iran. The dangers they face include arbitrary detention and lack of access to basic legal rights, as we have seen in the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been separated from her family since 2016.

“Regrettably, I must also offer a message of caution to Iranian nationals resident in the UK – but who return to visit family and friends – especially where the Iranian government may perceive them to have personal links to UK institutions or the British government.”

There are several other dual nationals in Tehran jails whose cases have not been publicised based on the wishes of the families.

The Foreign Office stressed that the Iranian government did not recognise dual nationality and, as such, if a dual national was detained in Iran, the Foreign Office’s capacity to provide consular support was extremely limited. In line with international norms, the UK is not able to offer consular assistance to non-nationals.

The Foreign Office said the changes to travel advice did not reflect wider tensions with Iran or the conflict between the US and Tehran over the future of the nuclear deal signed in 2015.

Amiri was arrested when she visited her family in March. She was convicted on Monday and is now in the same jail as Zaghari-Ratcliffe in Tehran.

Writing in the Guardian this week Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, said Amiri’s sentence and other such cases “should not be seen simply as random and unconnected, but part of a new wave of hostage diplomacy”.

He added: “This erosion of previous norms against state-sponsored hostage taking creates more than a protection gap for individual citizens. It risks allowing a new middle ages of international law.

“It is important to increase the cost – for Iran and others – of holding innocent people as leverage.” Urging joint action by Britain and the US he said: “We need this before more people are quietly taken.”

UK advises dual nationals against all travel to Iran – The Guardian

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