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UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner George Okoth-Obbo Commends Iran on Stabilising Refugee Communities in the Country

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UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner George Okoth-Obbo Commends Iran on Stabilising Refugee Communities in the Country

21 April 2016

Tehran, 20 April 2016 -Visiting the Islamic Republic of Iran as part of his tour to the region to review the situation of Afghan refugees, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Operations, Mr George Okoth-Obbo commended Iran for its generosity and exemplarily role in relation to refugees. He noted UNHCR's commitment to continue and further enhance its support towards Iran.

Citing numerous examples of the generosity of the Iranian government, Mr. Okoth-Obbo said: "For over 30 years, Iran has demonstrated a humanitarian commitment to protect millions of refugees. This is heart-warming, particularly at a time when 60 million people are forcibly displaced worldwide."

During his mission to Iran, Mr. Okoth-Obbo met with senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Interior and the Ministries of Education, Health and Labor. He also had the opportunity to interact with Afghan communities, key partners and the diplomatic community and visit refugee centres, schools, health centres and other facilities that provide services to refugees.

He commended the high quality of health care offered to refugees on par with Iranian nationals. He noted that the inclusion of refugees in Iran's Universal Public Health Insurance scheme is exemplarily. He called for efforts to stabilize this initiative in the coming year and committed UNHCR's support to the government towards this scheme.

In relation to education of refugees, he commended the government and for providing refugee children access to Iranian schools. In particular, he recognized the critical importance of the Supreme Leader's decree that allowed for children of undocumented families to attend schools in the country. Mr. Okoth-Obbo pledged UNHCR's support in easing the pressure that the educational system will face as they enroll even more children.

He noted that refugees can be an asset to their host country, while recognizing that the government and UNHCR have provided vocational training and created jobs to ensure that refugees, especially vulnerable women, become self-reliant. He noted that these skills would help them throughout their lives, in Iran and also when they return back to their country.

He noted the initiatives that the Government of Iran has taken and will continue to take to address the situation of the undocumented Afghans in the country. This population is residing in Iran in addition to the nearly one million Afghans currently registered as refugees.

In this context, he reaffirmed UNHCR's commitment to Iran and the Afghan refugees, and noted that the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR) - the quadripartite regional framework between the governments of the Islamic Republics of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran together with UNHCR - continues to be the main framework for joint interventions aimed at facilitating voluntary return and sustainable reintegration of Afghan refugees in Afghanistan while simultaneously providing assistance to refugee hosting communities.

Mr. Okoth-Obbo also thanked the government and People of Iran for the support provided to some 30,000 Iraqi refugees who have been residing here for decades, and for ensuring they have access to services in the country.

Expressing his appreciation for his visit to Iran, Mr. Okoth-Obbo noted: "I remain confident that the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran will continue providing asylum space to the refugees and with the existing good relationship between the Government and UNHCR, they will do the necessary to best overcome the existing challenges and address the protection issues related to the refugees."

The Assistant High Commissioner is appealing to the donor countries to enhance their financial support to UNHCR and enable it to carry out its programmes in support of the Afghan refugees in Iran as well as other countries hosting Afghans.

During Mr. Okoth-Obbo's first mission to the Islamic Republic of Iran in his capacity as Assistant High Commissioner for Operations from 18-21 April, he was accompanied by Ms. Daisy Dell, Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific. On 18 April, he arrived in Dogharoun, Iran's border station with Afghanistan and then proceeded to Torbat-e-Jam refugee settlement. He also visited refugee projects in Mashhad. In Tehran, he visited Solymankhani Administrative Centre for refugees.

For more information please contact Samar Maleki, External Relations, [email protected]