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Iran provides free education to thousands of illegal migrant kids

A file photo of Afghan schoogirls at a classroom in Iran.

An Iranian Interior Ministry official says a set of reforms have been made to protocols concerning the right of foreign nationals to education to make sure proper schooling is available to all migrants, including thousands of undocumented children.

Back in 2015, Iran passed a law allowing all Afghan children – regardless of their status as refugees, undocumented or passport-holders – to attend public schools. Based on figures provided by the Eduction Ministry, last school year, Iran offered free eduction to about 560 thousand foreign students, the majority of them Afghans.

Speaking in a TV program on Wednesday, Mehdi Mahmoudi, director general of the Iranian Interior Ministry’s Bureau for Foreign Nationals and Immigrants Affairs, explained that under the previous regulation, the children of both legal and illegal migrants could likewise enroll in schools.

There were only some restrictions for the illegal immigrants who might attempt to take advantage of the opportunity to stay in Iran, he added.

“However, we have introduced a new regulation for those holding valid documents, as well as unauthorized [foreign] nationals, which is specified in nine paragraphs. This means no more  school age children shall be deprived of education,” Mahmoudi said.

“Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei’s decree in 2015, which referred to the same issue, has been implemented since that year, and registrations are being made in schools. In the current academic year, we have a 26 percent increase in enrollments, compared to the previous year, and a total of 32 percent increase.”

For several decades, Iran has been playing a host to millions of Afghans who have fled insecurity, war and violence in their homeland. It is estimated that almost three million Afghan nationals are living in Iran, inclusive of passport holders and undocumented Afghans. Between 1.5 and two million are believed to remain undocumented.

The UN refugee agency has, on numerous occasions, praised the Islamic Republic for hosting Afghan refugees.

Tehran spends eight billion dollars on Afghan migrants every year in various sectors. It has repeatedly complained that the countries which caused the displacement of Afghans should accept responsibility and help cover the costs.

Washington invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban-run government in 2001 on the pretext of fighting terrorism following the September 11 attacks.

The Taliban, however, never stopped their attacks, citing foreign military presence as one of the main reasons behind the continued militancy.

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