12.5% of Afghan population living in Iran as refugees: official
July 24, 2008
TEHRAN -- Director of Interior Ministry's Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants Affairs (BAFIA) said here on Tuesday that 12.5 percent of Afghanistan’s 25 million population are living in Iran.Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of an exhibition displaying artworks of Afghan refugees in Iran, Seyed Taqi Qaemi said that since the early 1980s millions of Afghans fled their country.
The exhibition is being held at the venue of Interior Ministry in Tehran.
Afghans made their way into the neighboring countries, mainly Iran and Pakistan, after the Soviet invasion and during the civil war that followed.
At the same time, Tehran has had to cope with several hundred thousand Iranian civilian refugees from the war zones, in addition to foreign refugees.
Qaemi said some 2,000,640 Afghan refugees settled in Iran in 1983.
“All were provided with health, cultural, educational, and social services.”
According to Qaemi, the majority of refugees in Iran are concentrated in urban areas, with less than 3.3 percent living in camps. They are provided job opportunities and have access to education and health care, the ministry official added.
He said more than 602 thousand Afghan refugees have become literate through attending the Literacy Movement Organization’s classes over the past three decades and now more than 16 thousands are participating in the classes.
“Based on the census figures released by the Education Ministry, there was a 75% increase in number of Afghan students being educated in 2007 compared with 1990.
“In 1990, Afghan children comprised 101,820 of Iranian students, while in 2008, the number was about 199,346.”
Vaccination against diseases
He also said that the vaccination of refugees against diseases has reached to over 95% from about 2% over the past years.
“Over three thousands of Afghan refugees have been graduated in paramedic, midwifery, and nursery.”
Afghan refugees have been given 1,476,900 doses of polio, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP), BCG, and hepatitis vaccines during the years 2003 to 2006. And every dose costs Iran about 2500 rials (27 cents), Qaemi noted.
According to Qaemi, about 12 thousand Afghans have been graduated from Iranian universities, and Afghan students make up about 3,700 of Iranian university students.
Qaemi referred to Iran’s total literacy rate of 84.7% in 2008 and said that Afghan refugees’ literacy rate has reached to over 69% in 2008 from 6.9% in 1991.
Also referring to the unemployment rate in Afghanistan, he said, “The official figures show that the unemployment rate among Afghanistan’s 25 million population is between 40-45 percent.
“81 percent of the country’s population are farmers, 11 percent work in industrial sector and 9 percent in service industries.”
Qaemi expressed hope that living conditions in Afghanistan would be improved in a very near future.
The Interior Ministry official went on to say that these educated and skilled labor forces are the greatest gift to their country.
Afghan refugees cost Iran $6 million per day
Qaemi said Iran spends ‘some six million dollars per day' on Afghan refugees.
The budget allocated to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Iran is so small that it does not even suffice for a few-hour stay of the Afghan refugees, he noted.
“The UNHCR bureau in Iran had a budget of $12.8 million in 2007,” Qaemi told a press conference.
UN gratitude to Iran
Also speaking at the ceremony, Carlos Zaccagnini, representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Iran, lauded Tehran’s help to Afghan refugees, IRNA reported.
The international community has always been grateful to Iranian government and nation for their contribution to Afghan refugees, he said, expressing hope that Afghans would materialize their experiences in developing their own country when they return home.
The Afghan Ambassador to Iran also appreciated the Islamic Republic’s great efforts to host millions of Afghan refugees over the past three decades.
The skilled and educated Afghan refugees who have received job training in Iran are currently playing key role in reconstruction of their homeland, the ambassador added