Afghan Official in Tehran to Discuss Refugees, Visa Extensions

Afghan Official in Tehran to Discuss Refugees, Visa Extensions
Afghan Official in Tehran to Discuss Refugees, Visa Extensions

The deputy chief executive officer of Afghanistan at the head of a high-ranking delegation arrived in Tehran on Saturday for a three-day official visit.

Mohammad Mohaqiq was welcomed by Ebrahim Rahimpour, the deputy foreign minister for Asia and Pacific affairs, IRNA reported.

The official has reportedly brought separate messages from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah for Iranian officials on the conditions of the Afghan refugees that live in Iran.

 Mohaqiq is scheduled to hold meetings with Iranian officials to discuss the ways to facilitate the return of Afghan nationals to their country and exchange views about international efforts to provide aid to Afghan refugees.

Reuters had quoted an Afghan government spokesman as saying last Wednesday that Afghanistan would send a delegation to Iran to ask the government to extend temporary visas to allow 760,000 Afghan refugees who have no documents and risk deportation to stay on for at least a year.

There are almost one million registered Afghan refugees in Iran, according to the United Nations, most of whom arrived before 2001 when US-led troops toppled the hard-line Taliban regime.

But those who arrived afterwards are required to have their permits assessed on an individual basis, making it harder for them to obtain the paperwork needed to be officially registered, according to the United Nation’s refugee agency.

“The delegation will request the Iranian government to extend the visas for at least one more year,” said the Afghan chief executive’s deputy spokesman, Javid Faisal.

The Afghan government says there are 760,000 such unregistered Afghans and Faisal said their temporary visas were due to expire in 20 days, meaning they risked deportation.

Afghanistan is the United Nation’s largest repatriation operation, but fewer refugees are agreeing to return because of increasing violence and deteriorating economic conditions in the country.

Since 2002, the UN agency has helped more than 900,000 Afghans return home from Iran, but the number has dropped off and next year just 20,000 people are expected to be voluntarily repatriated, a fraction compared with previous years.