UN Admits Iran Refugee Grants Low

UN Admits Iran Refugee Grants Low UN Admits Iran Refugee Grants Low

A UN official praised Tehran's decades-long efforts to improve living conditions of millions of refugees in the country at a huge cost and admitted that Iran should receive more grants to help the refugees.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran has spent huge [amounts of money] on education and health care of refugees and is a pioneer in this regard, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a meeting with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran on Saturday.

"I'm surprised by the amount of work done in Iran to improve the living standards of refugees," he said, according to a Foreign Ministry press release.

He admitted that financial aid from the international community for the refugees in Iran should increase.

"International aid allocated to Iran, in proportion to the number of refugees residing here, is low," he said, in a rare admission by a senior UN official that Tehran has never received the aid and assistance it rightly deserves. Zarif said Iran as always sought to provide decent services to refugees and immigrants.

"For over three decades, Iran has hosted [millions of] refugees and tried to offer them adequate healthcare and education services, despite receiving meager international aid," he noted.

  Need to Build Afghan Infrastructure

Zarif referred to Afghanistan, from where the bulk of the refugees residing in Iran come from, saying the international funds for development projects and foreign investments in the war-ravaged south Asian country need to be beefed up.

"The UNHCR and international donors should help create the necessary infrastructure in Afghanistan to prepare the grounds for the voluntary repatriation of refugees."

 Pointing to Iran's participation in reconstruction projects in Afghanistan, Zarif said, "such measures will create jobs and will pave the way for the return of refugees."

Iran for more than 35 years has hosted one of the largest protracted refugee populations in the world with the major refugee caseload being Afghans.

Most Afghans fled to Iran either after the Soviet invasion/occupation of the impoverished Muslim country in 1979, or following the Afghan civil war in the 1990s and the US invasion in 2001.

According to the latest figures released by the Interior Ministry in Tehran, almost 11% or nearly 4 million of the total Afghan population now lives in Iran, despite the voluntary return of hundreds of thousands over the past decade.

One million Afghan refugees are registered under the refugee registration scheme "Amayesh" and the remaining are undocumented or illegal residents, which Tehran says should return home or go to any other country willing to take them.