Scale up support to Iran to safeguard fleeing Afghans, says UNHCR’s Grandi

UNHCR

At the end of a three-day visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi urged the international community to scale up its support to the Government and people of Iran, who are receiving Afghans fleeing a deteriorating situation in their country.

According to preliminary estimates by the Government of Iran, up to 500,000 Afghans have arrived in Iran in 2021.

The High Commissioner met with Iran’s Foreign Minister, Dr. Abdolahian, the Minister of Interior, Mr. Vahidi, and the Minister of Health, Dr. Einollahi, to discuss ways forward to manage and assist newly arriving Afghans, including through registration and documentation. He also called on the government to recognize the protection needs and risks faced on return to Afghanistan.

Grandi travelled to Zahedan, the capital of Sistan and Baluchistan province, where he met with Afghan families, including infants and elderly people, who fled to Iran from Nimrooz some four months ago.

”Afghan refugees spoke of their pain and desperation at having to leave their homes behind,” said High Commissioner Grandi. University-aged women conveyed to the High Commissioner their anguish at having had to abandon their studies and not knowing what their future will hold.

The High Commissioner also visited a new construction site in Niatak, 14 kilometres to the east of Zabol, to temporarily host newly arrived Afghans, with the view to meet their immediate needs and facilitate their regularisation. UNHCR is also discussing with the government the extension of assistance to new arrivals in urban areas.

“The Government of Iran has been a generous host of refugees for decades, despite their precarious economic situation made worse by the pandemic. But as the situation in Afghanistan remains fragile, we need to ensure those fleeing to Iran can get the protection and assistance they need”, Grandi added.

“UNHCR has already stepped up its work this year and will continue to work with the Government of Iran to ensure they are not alone in bearing the responsibility of hosting refugees. We appeal for greater financial support for Iran’s inclusive national services, in particular health and education, as well as increased supplies of COVID-19 vaccines equally distributed amongst host communities and Afghans.”

UNHCR will also seek greater opportunities for tertiary education for Afghan students, while also facilitating more resettlement from Iran.

Iran is one of the world’s largest refugee-hosting countries, having hosted Afghans for over four decades. In Iran, refugees have been given access to health, education and livelihoods opportunities, with the majority living in villages, towns and cities side by side with the Iranian host community.

While comprehensive and robust efforts to address the humanitarian, economic, and development challenges must be made to stabilize the population inside Afghanistan, refugee host-country needs must simultaneously be prioritized, enhanced, and made more sustainable.

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