|UN refugee chief due in Iran||
TEHRAN – United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres is scheduled to arrive in Tehran on Monday for a two-day mission.
It will be his fourth visit to Iran in recent years.
At a time of evolving global emergencies, the visit of Guterres is an affirmation that the generosity of the Iranian government and its people - for hosting one of the largest numbers of refugees in the world - is not forgotten, the UNHCR office in Tehran said in a press release on Sunday.
During his visit, Guterres will meet with Iranian officials and international missions to highlight the UNHCR’s commitment to support the Iranian government and emphasize the importance of international burden-sharing with the host country.
Do not abandon the Afghan people: UNHCR office
The Afghan refugee crisis is one of the largest protracted refugee situations in modern history. Millions of Afghans had to flee their war-stricken country and seek refuge in neighboring countries, namely Iran and Pakistan, the UNHCR said in a report sent to the Tehran Times.
Signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 protocol, Iran has been hosting refugees for over three decades. Currently Iran is home to approximately 840,000 Afghan and 42,000 Iraqi registered refugees with over 97% of them residing in urban areas.
This year UNHCR marks 30 years of presence in Iran, having first opened an office in 1984 to assist refugees from Afghanistan. Its presence expanded due to the massive influx of Iraqi refugees following the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Working with the UNHCR, Iran has provided sanctuary for those fearing violence and persecution in their home country, providing them with protection and safety and helping them meet their basic needs and requirements.
Despite its own challenges, the Iranian government and its people have welcomed refugees; sharing with them services, including healthcare, schooling and livelihood opportunities and providing them with a safe haven.
With the transition in Afghanistan in 2014, the need for humanitarian assistance may very well increase. The voluntary return of the Afghan people can contribute strongly to peace and stability in the region.
The visit of the high commissioner underlines his continuing support to the Afghan people, and also represents a request that the international community does not abandon Afghanistan. And for this, Iran and Pakistan - the world’s two largest refugee hosting countries - will need continued international support to maintain asylum space for refugees during these difficult times.
A very important development for the region is the “Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees” which aims to assist host countries until the time for the return of the refugees. The strategy also supports their voluntary repatriation and sustainable reintegration in Afghanistan.
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