UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, this week marked World Refugee Day with a series of events across the Islamic Republic of Iran, under the theme: “Whoever, Wherever, Whenever, Everyone has the right to seek safety”.
For the first time in two years since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNHCR and the Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants Affairs (BAFIA) of the Ministry of Interior, brought together refugees, host communities, government officials, members of the diplomatic community and humanitarian and development partners to celebrate the courage, talent and resilience of millions of Afghans exiled in the country.
In an event held in Tehran, UNHCR’s Officer in Charge, Ms. Inna Gladkova, appreciated Iran for generously hosting Afghans for over four decades and stressed the need to mobilize even more international support for Iran, at a time when wars and conflicts are causing the highest levels of forced displacement ever recorded in history.
Dr. Rezadoust, the Director-General of BAFIA, Mr. Pirkoohi, Director-General of International Affairs, Environment and Sustainable Development Department of the Ministry of Foreign affairs, and other government officials also attended.
Other events in Khorasan Razavi, Fars, Isfahan, and Kerman provinces included colorful refugee-focused events, photo exhibitions, theatre performances, refugee craft bazaars, and drawing competitions.
As one of the world’s leading refugee hosting countries, Iran has shown incredible generosity towards refugees by allowing them access to health, education, and livelihoods opportunities – essential building blocks to become independent and self-sufficient. Despite the growing economic challenges, the Government of Iran has continued to invest in critical services for refugees and has maintained its inclusive policies.
UNHCR welcomes the ongoing headcount exercise by the Government of Iran to record all undocumented Afghans and newly arrived asylum-seekers in the country. This is a positive step to provide international protection, including documentation, to all those who may need it. A solid asylum system which can provide accurate data about persons of concern, will also allow for more international support to Iran.
A photography exhibition showcasing Iran’s long history of hosting refugees, starting from the 16th century with Armenians to this date, was one of the main features of the event. A refugee handicraft bazaar also attracted large numbers of people to appreciate Afghan crafts, cuisine and music at the landmark Milad Tower.
On World Refugee Day we are reminded that refugees, with help from welcoming communities and neighbours like Iran, can rebuild their lives and thrive, until the time they are able to voluntarily, safely and sustainably return home.
Note for editors: Refugees in the Islamic Republic of Iran
The Islamic Republic of Iran, with over 800,000 Afghans and Iraqi refugees is currently the ninth largest refugee hosting country in the world. Of these refugees, 96 per cent reside in urban areas, side-by-side with Iranian host communities. The remaining four per cent live in 20 government-run refugee settlements. In addition to registered Afghan refugees, government estimates indicate that there are 2.1 million undocumented Afghans in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The government of Iran is currently undertaking a headcount exercise to document undocumented Afghans. UNHCR welcomes the headcount initiative by the Government of Iran as a positive step towards providing better international protection to Afghans.
UNHCR has maintained an uninterrupted presence in the country for 38 years and works in close coordination with its main government counterpart the Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants’ Affairs to provide protection and assistance to Afghan and Iraqi refugees throughout the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Duniya Aslam Khan, [email protected], +98 991 2058010
Farha Bhoyroo, [email protected] , +98 912 132 7183