Over 670,000 illegal foreign nationals expelled annually

September 2, 2020 - 17:22

TEHRAN – Some 672,000 foreign nationals illegally residing in Iran are expelled annually from the country in the interest of national security, Hossein Zolfaghari, deputy minister of interior for security and law enforcement, has announced.

“Regarding foreign nationals, especially Afghans inside the country, we have been thinking of arrangements for several years so that anyone should enter Iran legally and then returns after a legal period, he noted, adding, in fact, this action put an end to the illegal presence of these people.

In this regard, we have taken several measures, one of which is to reduce the costs of legal entry into the country, because a number of people enter the country through smuggling and across borders. In this regard, 800 vehicles carrying illegal foreign nationals are confiscated every year,” he explained.

“Another step we have taken is to increase the visa issuance, and the third step is to increase the stay period from three months to up to a year so that the foreign nationals can enter the country with a visa and have legal residence,” he added.

“We agreed with the Government of Afghanistan on the issue of identification and issuance of e-passports so that nationals who are students or have a family are among our priorities to organize.”

Zolfaghari further said that “Our annual average of expelling illegal foreign nationals from the country is 672,000, and we keep the people who enter the country repeatedly for an additional period of time in the camp.”

“We provide various services to foreign nationals in the country, especially in the field of healthcare and medical services, skills training, employment, livelihood, and unexpected events,” he stated.

He went on to highlight that about 850,000 of them are allowed to reside in Iran as displaced, however, the average annual international aid is $30 million, which is less than 10 percent of the expenses of this number of people.

There are 40,000 Afghan students in the country, according to the official report, 17,000 of them are graduated, while the unofficial report of 26,000 indicates that we have not yet received the new report from the Ministry of Science, he explained.

He added that 47,000 people were trained and 10 percent of legal refugees were covered by insurance with the help of the UNHCR, and other foreign nationals can pay for health insurance like Iranians.

The issue of granting citizenship to children born to foreign men was also approved as a law so that so far 1,290 children of Iranian women who married foreign men have received Iranian citizenship, he emphasized.

Some 2,852 foreign nationals were infected with COVID-19, of which 294 died and the rest recovered, which was far less than the Iranian population, he concluded.

Situation of foreign nationals

Iran is host to one of the largest and most protracted urban refugee situations in the world and has provided asylum to refugees for four decades.

The latest official government statistics in 2014, there are 951,142 Afghan refugees and 28,268 Iraqi refugees living in Iran. Many of the refugees living in Iran are the second and third generation, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

About 97 percent of refugees live in urban and semi-urban areas, while 3 percent are residing in 20 refugee resorts run by the UNHCR's main government counterpart.

In addition to Afghan refugees, there are about 2.5 million Afghans living in Iran, including those having a passport and undocumented Afghans. 450,000 Afghan who did not have identity cards or birth certificates have received Iranian visas that allow them to live, work or study in the country.

Iran ramped up its production of essential medical equipment, and independent entrepreneurs – refugees included – have redirected their efforts towards contributing to the national COVID-19 response.

Undocumented Afghans who have access to free primary health services and similarly free COVID-19 related testing, treatment, and hospitalization, just like nationals.

In Iran, UNHCR is seeking $16.2 million for its COVID-19 emergency, while requires an additional $98.7 million to support Iran in maintaining and sustaining its commendable inclusive refugee policies, under the umbrella of the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR).

Shahnam Arshi, deputy director for the infectious diseases management department of the Ministry of Health said in late August that all foreign nationals infected with coronavirus receive medical treatment free of charge in Iran.

So far, at least 4 trillion rials (nearly $95 million at the official rate of 42,000 rials) have been spent only for the treatment of registered foreign nationals, he stated.

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