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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.

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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

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Typhoon Haiyan Devastates the Philippines

Afghan Refugees in Iran

At a recent conference in Geneva, the international community endorsed a "solutions strategy" for millions of Afghan refugees and those returning to Afghanistan after years in exile. The plan, drawn up between Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and UNHCR, aims to support repatriation, sustainable reintegration and assistance to host countries.

It will benefit refugee returnees to Afghanistan as well as 3 million Afghan refugees, including 1 million in Iran and 1.7 million in Pakistan.

Many of the refugees in Iran have been living there for more than three decades. This photo set captures the lives of some of these exiles, who wait in hope of a lasting solution to their situation.

Afghan Refugees in Iran

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Losing your family and home is losing everything you are and have. Tyhone Haiyan tore many families apart and took almost every persons home in Tacloban City ... in one day. UNHCR has provided more than 1,500 family tents to families in this area in addition to solar lanterns, plastic sheets, blankets and other relief items to help the people of Tacloban City regain a sense of life.
Philippines: Leaving the Darkness Play video

Philippines: Leaving the Darkness

When typhoon Haiyan swept Tacloban City, it took with it what people need the most to see their way through any hard time: light. UNHCR has provided people of the Philippines with relief items that are helping make a difference. Relief items such as solar lanterns, plastic sheets, blankets and more than 1,500 family tents to families in this area.
Philippines: Picking up the Pieces.Play video

Philippines: Picking up the Pieces.

In Tanauan, one of the coastal areas worst hit by Typhoon Haiyun, people are being given tents and assistance while they start rebuilding their homes and lives.