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Iran bemoans scant global aid over Afghan refugees

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) shakes hands with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi in Tehran on June 18, 2016. © IRNA

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has criticized the insufficient international aid over the Afghan refugees in the country, stressing the importance of preparing the ground for their voluntary return to Afghanistan.

“Iran hosted [Afghan] refugees for over three decades but unfortunately received little international aid,” Zarif said in a meeting with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi in Tehran on Saturday.

He added that many legal and illegal Afghan refugees are living in Iran, saying, “The Islamic Republic of Iran has always tried to provide the refugees with good facilities and has spent hugely on refugees’ education.”

The Iranian foreign minister urged the UN’s refugee agency and donating countries to ramp up investment in Afghan economic projects with the purpose of preparing the necessary ground for the voluntary return of Afghan refugees.

“Very little investment has been made in this regard and it is necessary to do more work,” Zarif said.

He noted that Iran has carried out a number of economic projects such as the development of the southeastern Iranian port of Chabahar and the supply of drinking water to Afghanistan, which have resulted in more employment opportunities in the war-torn country.

On May 23, Iran, India and Afghanistan signed a key trilateral deal, known as the Chabahar agreement, to establish a strategic transit and transport route connecting the three countries.

The agreement was signed in the presence of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in the Iranian capital of Tehran.

Chabahar is located in the Gulf of Oman on the border with Pakistan. It is Iran’s closest and best access point to the Indian Ocean.

Iran role model for promoting refugees’ health, education: UN

The UN official, for his part, praised Iran for hosting refugees and said the Islamic Republic has spent a huge sum of money on refugees’ health and education and described Iran’s acts as exemplary.

Grandi said he was taken by surprise by the steadily growing volume of services rendered to refugees in Iran, and expressed hope international bodies would further assist refugees in Iran.

Iran has been hosting large numbers of Afghan refugees, who fled wars and conflicts in their country. In recent years, Tehran has been urging the Afghan nationals to return home voluntarily to contribute to the reconstruction of their homeland.

More than 350,000 Afghan refugee children are now in school in Iran while some 48,000 undocumented Afghan children were allowed last year to enroll for the first time in Iranian public schools, according to a recent UNHCR report.

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