Iran: agreement reached on Afghans
Iran's Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants (BAFIA) has decided to give UNHCR access to detention centres throughout Iran where Afghan nationals threatened with deportation are held. This will permit UNHCR to establish a screening programme to review their asylum claims.
The agreement was reached during a meeting on Wednesday between UNHCR Chief of Mission, Philippe Lavanchy and the Director General of BAFIA, Ahmad Hosseini, in Tehran.
Under the agreement, described by Lavanchy as a "significant development," UNHCR will have access to detention centres throughout Iran where Afghan nationals threatened with deportation are being held, and will be able to conduct interviews with any persons who may have asylum claims.
We'll now be in a position to identify genuine refugee cases who are at risk of being deported and, therefore, fulfil that key protection element of our mandate.
BAFIA has assured us that Afghans found to be holders of valid documents will be released unconditionally, and that undocumented Afghans considered by UNHCR to have a valid case for refugee status under the new screening programme will be permitted to remain in Iran.
UNHCR is currently making arrangements to implement the screening process in cooperation with BAFIA.
The joint programme on voluntary repatriation - which was signed in Geneva last April by UNHCR, the Iranian government and the Afghan authorities - states that all Afghans in Iran should have access to UNHCR-assisted repatriation services. By implication, that means both those who are registered with the Iranian authorities and those who are not.
More than 122,000 Afghans have returned from Iran since UNHCR and BAFIA started the voluntary return programme last April. The return movement from Iran has been gradually increasing over recent weeks.