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Iran: Afghans request return

Briefing notes

Iran: Afghans request return

11 April 2000

On Saturday, April 8, more than 1,000 Afghans showed up at Suleimankhani Reception Centre, south of Tehran, and requested assistance to go back to Afghanistan under a repatriation programme agreed in February between UNHCR and Iran. Few of them came with their personal belongings. As a result, while several hundred were registered, only 69 actually departed in the first repatriation under the February agreement.

The 69 Afghans, mainly single males, crossed the border into Afghanistan on Sunday at 11 a.m. after receiving a 40 dollar cash grant and instructions on mine awareness. Local authorities and UNHCR staff received them at Islam Qala, in Afghanistan. Forty-six of the returnees gave Herat or Kabul as their final destinations, with smaller numbers going to other places.

Yesterday, April 10, a convoy of 21 buses and 5 trucks transporting 747 persons left Tehran and is expected to arrive at the border crossing point of Dogalun this morning.

The UNHCR office in Mashhad, the border town, has also been approached by a large number of Afghans over the last several days, requesting for help for their return. The Voluntary Repatriation Centre at Chaharcheshmeh, near Mashhad, will be operational beginning Wednesday and a convoy of between 350 to 400 persons is planned for that day.

Some of the Afghans who went to the Suleimankhani Centre yesterday requested continued protection in Iran. UNHCR plans to establish nine screening centres in Iran by the end of the month to verify claims for refugee status.

A Joint Programme was signed between the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and UNHCR on 14 February 2000. It aims to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of Afghans currently in Iran, either documented or undocumented. Returnees get a repatriation grant of 40 US dollars per person (20 dollars upon departure from Iran and 20 dollars upon arrival in Afghanistan) and 50 kg of wheat.

Afghans currently undocumented and who believe they have valid reasons not to return may submit their claim for refugee status and have them examined by joint Government/UNHCR team.

The Programme is implemented jointly by the Government and UNHCR. The IOM provides transport under an agreement with UNHCR.