A group of Iranian Christian refugees have been given two weeks to leave Austria, after the US government denied their asylum applications.
According to media reports, the move by the US government appears to signal the shutting down of a humanitarian programme created to help religious minorities escape persecution.
The refugees, approximately 100 in total and mainly Christian, now face possible deportation back to Iran. They have been stranded in Vienna for more than a year and expected to enter the US under the Lautenberg humanitarian programme. This was instigated in 1990 to enable Jews and Christians from the former Soviet Union to emigrate.
However, according to Barnabas Fund, the US government now appears to be quietly closing down the programme. Yet many of the refugees are reported to have relatives in the US and had already been interviewed by the Department for Homeland Security.
In one case cited by media reports, family members in the US had been told their relative would receive a US visa in early 2017, but this has now been rejected.