13 December 2017
AsiaNews.it Twitter AsiaNews.it Facebook
Geographic areas

  • > Africa
  • > Central Asia
  • > Europe
  • > Middle East
  • > Nord America
  • > North Asia
  • > South Asia
  • > South East Asia
  • > South West Asia
  • > Sud America
  • > East Asia

  • » 03/17/2017, 15.21


    For UN, Iran’s treatment of Afghan refugees is exemplary

    About a million Afghans are registered as refugees in the country. Tehran has been praised for providing access to education with 15,000 more classrooms.

    Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Whilst the refugee issue is at the centre of heated political debates in Europe and the United States, the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has praised Iran’s approach, calling it "exemplary".

    Iran has been sheltering a million registered Afghans for almost four decades. As of June 2016, that was the fourth-largest refugee population in the world, the UNHCR said, after Turkey, Pakistan and Lebanon.

    Overall, Iran is host to about 950,000 Afghans and 28,000 Iraqis. However, according to some NGOs, another two million are living under the radar.

    "The leadership demonstrated by the Iranian government has been exemplary in hosting refugees and keeping borders open," said Sivanka Dhanapala, who heads the UN High Commissioner for Refugees team in Tehran. "It's a story that's not told often enough." 

    Contacted by AsiaNews, Father Giuseppe Moretti said he is not surprised by this given the presence of ethnic Afghan Hazara.

    "There is a religious bond between the Hazara and Iran, because both are Shias. The Hazara are one of Afghanistan’s largest and poorest ethnic groups. They are drawn to Iran, which has the reputation of being a rich country."

    According to UNHCR, the Hazara and Tajiks represent 70 per cent of all Afghan refugees in Iran.

    As an example of good policy, Dhanapala highlighted the 2015 decree by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordering schools to take in all Afghan children, documented or not -- a move that left authorities scrambling to build the equivalent of 15,000 new classrooms to accommodate some 350,000 Afghan children.

    Nonetheless, in view of persistent economic woes due to years of sanctions and mismanagement, many Iranians are not happy about the presence of so many needy refugees.

    Speaking about the relationship between Iranians and Afghans, Fr Moretti, who is from Italy, quipped that "There is a bit of the same sympathy that exists between northern and southern Italians."

    "At the basis of accepting [the Afghans] lies the concept of the Ummah, [and] of the Muslim family,” the clergyman explained. “At the same time, hospitality is very important in the Orient. Yet, those who come will always be considered outsiders."

    In fact, many Afghans complain of discrimination. Iranian authorities discourage them from settling, rounding up the undocumented to send home.

    "Even someone like me, who was born in Iran and has lived here 36 years is not yet an Iranian citizen and the discrimination I face in my education and work is suffocating," said one Afghan who asked to remain anonymous. 

    Although he is grateful for his residency permit, he has to renew it every six to 12 months, and this makes life difficult. 

    "I've been sent back a few times,” said another who was 14 when he fled the Soviet war in the 1980s. “Either you wait for a new visa or come illegally with traffickers. I don't use the traffickers – it's horrible."

    Another thorny issue is the accusation by some foreign governments that Iran recruits young Afghans to fight in Syria. Although Tehran has denied the allegation, it has acknowledged granting special privileges to the families of dead fighters, claiming that they are just volunteers.

    Despite the criticism, the UNHCR and many NGOs agree that Iran deserves more credit than it is given. At the same time, the UN hopes Iran will ease restrictions on which jobs Afghans can do, and would like to see Tehran implement a formal registration process for the undocumented.

    For Dhanapala, "in a world where you have multiple bad stories about hosting refugees, I think Iran is really a good news story". 

    e-mail this to a friend Printable version

    See also

    17/10/2007 MYANMAR
    Junta “eliminating” soldiers who fired on monks
    The generals are trying to get rid of evidence and witnesses to the late September repression should they be called to account some time in the future. Meanwhile arrests continue as do pro-government demonstrations organised by the military regime. Some ethnic Burmese are dressed up in ethnic minorities clothing to show minorities’ support for the government against the West. ASEAN only expresses support for UN initiative, refuses to implement sanctions against the junta.

    Mahmoud Abbas backtracks, says postponing vote on Goldstone Report a mistake
    The president of the Palestinian National Authority disowns decision taken a week ago in Geneva. Meanwhile the signing of Fatah-Hamas reconciliation deal set for 25 October in Cairo is called off.

    22/09/2012 UN
    UN fight against poverty: donations from rich countries down by 50 percent
    At least 16 key donor countries have reduced their contributions because of the global economic crisis. G8 countries have not kept their promises to Africa. Medicine and the internet still too expensive for poor countries.

    25/10/2006 UNITED NATIONS – ASIA
    Bird flu warning prevents world pandemic
    UN official says early warning on possible virus mutation generated right response in governments, preventing an immediate pandemic. He makes an appeal for Indonesia and Africa.

    For Baghdad patriarch, an intervention by Arab States is essential in the Iraqi crisis
    At the UN, the patriarchs and bishops of the Churches of the Middle East denounce the sufferings of Christians, victims of the violence of the Islamic State, a tragic situation that calls for action by the international community. Islamists must be defeated and peaceful coexistence restored. AsiaNews presents Mar Sako's address.

    Editor's choices

    Mideast Christians against Trump over Jerusalem capital, a decision that destroys hope for peace

    The Chaldean patriarchate criticises a choice that complicates the situation and fuels conflicts and wars. Card al-Rahi calls the decision “destructive” and a violation of international resolutions. Coptic pope Tawadros II cancels a meeting with US Vice President Pence. Somewhat resigned, Palestinians continue their protest. For Israeli peace group, the US has abdicated its role of mediator in the region.

    Xi Jinping’s false promises and the expulsion of the “low-end population” from Beijing

    Willy Wo-Lap Lam

    Tens of thousands of migrants and their families have been expelled and sent away from the capital. Yet, at the recent Party Congress, President Xi had promised to provide support and help against poverty. There is no reward nor legal or charity for displaced persons. The country’s "social Darwinism" condemns the rural people to marginalisation and allows urban classes to enjoy privileges and advantages. Courtesy of the Jamestown Foundation.


    AsiaNews monthly magazine (in Italian) is free.


    News feed

    Canale RSScanale RSS 

    Add to Google


    IRAN 2016 Banner

    2003 © All rights reserved - AsiaNews C.F. e P.Iva: 00889190153 - GLACOM®