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Iranian businessman becomes first refugee to get Philippine citizenship

News Stories, 25 September 2006

© UNHCR Philippines
Buick Bahador is interviewed by local media after becoming the first refugee to be sworn in as a citizen of the Philippines.

MANILA, Philippines, September 25 (UNHCR) A milestone in refugee protection in the Philippines was reached earlier this week when an Iranian refugee was sworn in as a Philippine citizen.

"I feel great. It is like a burden has been lifted after all these years," 55-year-old Buick Bahador said after becoming the first refugee to be granted Philippine citizenship under national judicial proceedings. Foreigners can also be granted citizenship by Congress, but this is only granted on exceptional occasions.

"This is another demonstration of the Philippines' long-standing commitment to refugee protection," added Rico Salcedo, who attended the September 18 ceremony as representative of the UNHCR office in Manila. The swearing-in took place at the regional court in Angeles City, Pampanga province.

Bahador, who hails originally from Teheran, described the Philippines "as my home" and thanked the Filipino people for accepting him and allowing him to find protection in the country.

In line with Philippine law, the swearing-in came two years after the approval of his naturalisation petition. Criteria for citizenship include established residency, proof of local integration and evidence of good moral character.

Bahador was the first of about 40 refugees mainly from Africa, Sri Lanka and the Middle East whom UNHCR is helping to gain citizenship. Most, like Bahador, are married to Philippine nationals and have been living in the country for several years. Two more Iranians are expected to be sworn in next year.

Bahador, who lives with his Filipina wife and son in Pampanga province, fled Iran in 1979 shortly before the fall of the Shah. He converted to Catholicism and moved to the Philippines after marrying his wife, whom he had met in Teheran.

A former member of the Iranian army, Bahadur was granted refugee status by UNHCR in 1981. He completed a course in civil engineering after arriving in the Philippines and is now involved in the retail trade, construction and real estate.

He is also involved in community activities and, in recognition of this work, was given the key to the municipality of Mabalacat, where he lives.

The Philippines is marking the 25th anniversary of its accession to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 protocol. The country has in the past four decades hosted some 500,000 refugees mostly from Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam and has actively cooperated in finding humanitarian solutions for them through resettlement and voluntary repatriation. Camps and processing centres for the Indochinese refugees were closed in 1996.

There are currently less than 100 refugees in the Philippines, mainly from Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, and the country is trying to find durable solutions for them.

UNHCR has supported the development of the asylum system in the Philippines and is undertaking joint capacity-building and advocacy activities with various government agencies. Refugees in the Philippines are integrated in various urban locations and able to exercise social and economic rights.




One Year On: Thousands Still Recovering from Typhoon Haiyan

On November 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan - one of the strongest tropical cyclones on record anywhere - ran ashore in the central Philippines, causing wide devastation, displacing 4 million people and killing at least 6,300. A year on, and the recovery work still goes on. While most of the 4.1 million people who were displaced have either returned home to rebuild, or been relocated, solutions are still needed for some 20,000 people either living in shelters or - in a small number of cases - with host families.

The UN refugee agency and partners such as shipments and logistics giant United Parcel Service (UPS) were swift to respond last November, contributing funds for immediate needs and for long-term recovery. Funding was used to provide critical aid during the emergency, including tents, solar-powered lanterns and protection kits.

A year after the typhoon struck, some people in Leyte province, one of the areas hardest hit, are still rebuilding their lives. People still need help with physical dwellings, water and sanitation, hygiene, as well as land and property issues. Some live in tents, others have moved into transitional housing and some families are building new houses. Despite the trauma, there is a real sense of hope for the future among the people of Leyte. Photographer Phil Behan and UNHCR staff member Marjanna Bergman visited the central Philippines to record the situation today.

One Year On: Thousands Still Recovering from Typhoon Haiyan

Typhoon Haiyan: On the Road to Recovery Six Months After the Storm

Six months after Typhoon Haiyan carved its deadly and destructive path through the central Philippines and forcibly displaced 4 million Filipinos, the area is like a big construction site as people get on with rebuilding their flattened homes as well as their lives. Many have moved into renovated homes while thousands of those who fled to cities like Cebu and Manila have returned home. But large numbers still live in tents or former evacuation centres; full recovery is still some way off and many people need help. UNHCR is working with the government and other partners to address the challenges and find solutions for the displaced. The refugee agency has provided assistance to more than 600,000 people, distributing shelter materials and household items, including solar-powered lanterns in areas where there is still no electricity. UNHCR is also supporting a government-led mobile civil registration project to give 100,000 people continued access to social welfare, education and employment. Photographer Jeoffrey Maitem marked the six-month milestone by visiting communities recovering from Typhoon Haiyan.

Typhoon Haiyan: On the Road to Recovery Six Months After the Storm

Typhoon Haiyan Devastates the Philippines

An estimated 13 million people were affected when Typhoon Haiyan struck the central Philippines on November 8. Thousands were killed and about 3 million are believed to be displaced - some of them living in evacuation sites, others on the ruins of their former homes. Tacloban City in Leyte province was one of the hardest-hit areas. A week after the typhoon made landfall, large parts of its coast remain flattened and piles of debris still line the streets. Working with the Philippines government and UN and NGO partners, UNHCR is airlifting emergency supplies for thousands of survivors. The agency is delivering tents, plastic sheets, mosquito nets and other critical aid. It is also co-leading the protection cluster with the government, working to identify vulnerable people and ensuring that they have access to basic assistance and services. UNHCR has appealed for US$15 million to meet these critical needs. UNHCR is now present in Tacloban and Ormoc in Leyte province, as well as Guiuan in Eastern Samar province.

Typhoon Haiyan Devastates the Philippines

Philippines: One Year After Typhoon HaiyanPlay video

Philippines: One Year After Typhoon Haiyan

On November 8 last year, Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the central Philippines, causing widespread devastation and killing thousands of people. A year on, and the recovery work still goes on. Bartolome on Leyte Island looks back at his family's experience, including living on a dredger for several weeks after their home was destroyed.
Philippines : Rebuilding a Year After Typhoon HaiyanPlay video

Philippines : Rebuilding a Year After Typhoon Haiyan

One year ago, the central Philippines was hit by Typhoon Haiyan, a massive storm that wiped out entire communities and killed more than 6,000 people. Today, the residents of hard-hit areas such as Leyte Island are well on their way to rebuilding their lives.
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