UK advises dual nationals against all travel to Iran

Foreign Office tightens advice after jailing of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Aras Amiri

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.

“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.”

Contributor

Patrick Wintour, Diplomatic editor

The GuardianTramp

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