TEHRAN – As the number one destination for Afghan refugees, Iran alone, more than any other European or Western country in times of crisis, has opened its arms to accept asylum seekers from its eastern neighbor.
World Refugee Day is an international day designated by the United Nations to honor refugees around the globe. It falls each year on June 20 and celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution.
World Refugee Day was held globally for the first time on June 20, 2001, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. It was originally known as Africa Refugee Day, before the United Nations General Assembly officially designated it as an international day in December 2000.
Iran, without the support of international organizations, has accommodated hundreds of thousands of new refugees in the recent crisis in Afghanistan and now has millions of refugees covered by its services. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says Iran and Pakistan have hosted millions of Afghan refugees over the past four decades, and estimates suggest that 90 percent of Afghan refugees are residing in these two countries.
The number of Afghan immigrants living in Iran has exceeded four million. After entering Iran, Afghan immigrants had the highest presence in the provinces of Khorasan Razavi, South Khorasan, and Sistan-Baluchestan.
Afghanistan General Consul Resident in Mashhad, Abdul Jaber Ansar, said that sanctions against Iran target the economic spheres and from a perspective, three million Afghan refugees bear the negative effects. In fact, anti-human-rights sanctions have also affected the livelihood of Afghan refugees.
“For example, as mentioned, the UNHCR spends about $200,000 annually for a small group of vulnerable immigrants in Khorasan Razavi. However, we believe that the number of people in need is more than the current figures,” he added.
President Ebrahim Raisi also said that despite the fact that the Europeans have made many claims about supporting the Afghans, but have not provided them with any assistance, contrary to their comments, today more than four million Afghans are guests of the Islamic Republic.
The education, life, and employment of these citizens are important to us and should be followed, so we predicted that a central mechanism would be formed as an immigrant organization, he added.
The special representative of the president for Afghanistan, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, on the occasion of World Refugee Day twitted that Iran bears the most burden of refugees among the countries in the region.
“The performance of human rights defenders in accepting Afghan, Syrian, and Iraqi refugees and prioritizing Ukrainian refugees is contrary to their claims.
Iran, without the support of international organizations, has accommodated hundreds of thousands of new refugees in the recent crisis in Afghanistan and now has millions of refugees covered by its services,” he wrote.
Based on the latest statistics, over 3 million Afghans are living in Iran – some 780,000 Afghan refugees, over 2 million undocumented Afghans, and another 600,000 Afghan passport-holders with Iranian visas.
However, in light of the pandemic, all refugees, even those undocumented, benefited from access to free primary health services and free COVID-19-related testing, treatment, and hospitalization, just like Iranian nationals.
The same happened for the vaccination when the country has generously considered refugees for vaccination against coronavirus.
The recent fast-paced turn of events in Afghanistan has the potential to create additional population movements; displacing families internally and potentially driving them to seek refuge in neighboring countries.
It is estimated that up to 300,000 Afghan asylum-seekers have fled to Iran this year alone in search of safety, while UNHCR has only been able to screen some 24,000 newly arrived Afghans for protection needs.
António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, has praised Iran’s generosity which – for decades – has hosted millions of Afghans in need.
“At this moment, we need the global community to put their hands on the wheel of progress, provide resources, and prevent Afghanistan from spiraling any further.
I will never forget the generosity of countries like Pakistan and Iran, which – for decades – have hosted millions of Afghans in need,” Guterres said in a statement released on January 26 to the Security Council on Afghanistan.
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