UN praises Iran’s ‘exemplary’ refugee efforts

TEHRAN: Whereas Iranians bear the brunt of Donald Trump’s visa ban, which got here into drive final week, worldwide officers say their nation has quietly emerged as one of the crucial beneficiant in the direction of refugees.

“The management demonstrated by the Iranian authorities has been exemplary in internet hosting refugees and holding borders open,” mentioned Sivanka Dhanapala, who heads the UN Excessive Commissioner for Refugees workforce in Tehran. “It’s a narrative that’s not instructed typically sufficient.”

Iran has been sheltering 1,000,000 registered Afghans for nearly 4 a long time, and NGOs estimate there are some two million extra residing beneath the radar. That’s the fourth-largest refugee inhabitants on the earth, the UN says.

Trump’s new visa ban on six largely Muslim nations can have a very robust affect on the a million Iranians residing and learning within the US, in addition to their households.

Overseas NGO staff have famous the irony that Iran is focused by the ban whereas it continues to cope with enormous numbers who’ve fled an American-led battle.

Dhanapala highlighted the 2015 decree by supreme chief Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordering colleges to absorb all Afghan youngsters, documented or not – a transfer that left authorities scrambling to construct the equal of 15,000 new lecture rooms. “We’ve additionally labored with the federal government on incorporating refugees right into a government-sponsored medical insurance scheme which is a ground-breaking improvement not only for Iran however globally for refugees,” Dhanapala mentioned.

Officers are nicely conscious that Afghans nonetheless face a harsh existence in Iran. As in lots of international locations, Iranians are lower than happy to be internet hosting so many poor foreigners, particularly when their financial system has been battered by years of sanctions and mismanagement. The result’s that Iran does so much to discourage Afghans from staying, rounding up the undocumented and sending them house.

“Even somebody like me, who was born in Iran and has lived right here 36 years shouldn’t be but an Iranian citizen and the discrimination I face in my training and work is suffocating,” mentioned one Afghan, a comparatively well-established skilled in Tehran, who requested to stay nameless. He’s nonetheless grateful for his residency allow, which should be renewed each six to 12 months.

“I’ve by no means seen Afghanistan, apart from the unhealthy pictures on the media and I really concern returning,” he mentioned. “However for 36 years, I’ve lived in concern of my residency papers not being renewed and it has made life bitter for us.”

Many Afghans are in Iran for work, and are a perennial sight on the margins of Tehran life as development staff, parking attendants and rubbish-pickers.

“What else can we do? I’ve two daughters and a son again in Afghanistan,” mentioned an undocumented 40-year-old who works as a cleaner and likewise requested not be named. He gave up his refugee card so he may go to his household, and got here again to Iran with a three-month visa which he couldn’t renew. “I haven’t visited house for 3 years. If I am going, it takes 5 to 12 months to get one other visa,” he mentioned.

He was 14 when he fled the Soviet warfare within the 1980s.

“After they catch you on the road, it doesn’t matter in case you’ve been right here one 12 months or 100, they take you to the deportation camp and make you pay for the bus again to the border,” he mentioned. “I’ve been despatched again a couple of instances. Both you look ahead to a brand new visa or come illegally with traffickers. I don’t use the traffickers – it’s horrible.”

Overseas governments have additionally accused Iran of rounding up younger Afghans to struggle in Syria.

Iran denies any coercion or authorities sponsorship, saying they’re volunteers, although the households of these killed are given particular privileges.

In the meantime, some NGO staff privately criticise the tough remedy of Afghans, particularly in border areas, however all agree Iran deserves much more credit score for the burden it has accepted.

The UN hopes Iran will ease restrictions on which jobs Afghans can do, and would really like a proper registration course of for the undocumented, though it understands fears that this might appeal to but extra migrants.

However, mentioned Dhanapala, “in a world the place you’ve a number of unhealthy tales about internet hosting refugees, I feel Iran can be a excellent news story”.

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