0519 GMT January 23, 2020
Iran ranks first in the region in terms of providing services to refugees, and is single-handedly shouldering the load of accepting and settling refugees in many different aspects, said the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Iran.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Iran Daily, Ivo Freijsen, added the Islamic Republic is the world’s sixth top refugee destination.
He noted that Iran provides refugees living in the country with the same services, structures and facilities it offers its nationals and refrains from discriminating against them, adding, thus, the Islamic Republic is worthy of appreciation for its efforts.
Commenting on the 40th year of Afghan refugees’ presence in Iran, Freijsen expressed gratitude toward the country for the services it has provided Afghan nationals with and its equal treatment of them throughout all these years.
Turning to his upcoming visit, along with an Iranian delegation, to Geneva for taking part in the first Global Refugee Forum which will take place on December 17 and 18, 2019, he said, “Our most important message in this trip will be that Iran should not be left alone in carrying out this enormous task (hosting refugees). Our message is that although 40 years of hosting Afghan refugees is a long time, this must not cause the international community to stop assisting the country in this great challenge.”
Shifting to Washington’s sanctions on Tehran, Freijsen added, “We, along with our partners, express our concern over the economic circumstances in Iran which not only are impacting refugees in the country, but also affecting Iranians themselves.”
In May 2018, President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, signed between Iran and the P5+1 in July 2015, and reimposed Washington’s unilateral sanctions on Tehran, whose consequences include limiting money transfer to and from the Islamic Republic.
On Iran’s assistance for refugees, he said it is of great importance that governments support refugees and those who leave their countries for another state due to different reasons.
Freijsen added thus, Iran’s acceptance of a large number of refugees, whose lives had been at risk, and hosting them in the country for years, alone, are instances of international support for refugees.
In addition, he said, Iran provides refugees with a large number of services allowing them to live in the country like other citizens and use the same services Iranians are being offered.
In Iran, refugees can go to school and pursue their studies at all various educational stages and even enter university, the UNHCR representative noted, adding, they are also provided with the same health and treatment services Iranian nationals have access to.
“A major part of the refugees in Iran are from Afghanistan. Resolving the problem faced by Afghan refugees in Iran and their repatriation to their own country fail to be solely dependent on providing sufficient humanitarian assistance. First, security must be ensured in Afghanistan so that fewer individuals would emigrate from the country and, then, the ground should be prepared for the [voluntary] repatriation of other Afghan refugees.”
This, he stressed, to a large extent pertains to the Afghan government, urging that by ensuring security in the country, with the international community’s assistance, the Afghan government should prepare the ground for the repatriation of its nationals.
“Until that happens, we are required to continue supporting [Afghan] refugees. To this end, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Iranian Interior Ministry’s Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants Affairs support those refugees who come and express willingness to return to their own country and provide them with transportation facilities and financial assistance to facilitate their repatriation.”
Freijsen emphasized that “I must explicitly announce that [the extent of] the UNHCR’s capability directly depends on the financial assistance provided by governments and our credit is provided this way. Receiving this assistance has become more difficult in the past few years. This comes as the number of the demands and tasks requested from the UNHCR, as an organization responsible for assisting refugees, increases continuously. However, the amount of the financial resources we receive, fails to be in proportion to the demands requested from us, which makes our task difficult.”
He added that the UNHCR’s solution to this problem has been to assign different degrees of priority to its measures to support refugees.
“Reaching out to vulnerable refugees has been among our top priorities. We have done our best to prioritize them. In addition, the UNHCR has attempted to incorporate refugees into the [host] countries’ national systems in such a way that each state’s national services can be accessible by the refugees.”