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Healthcare Cover for Afghan Immigrants
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Healthcare Cover for Afghan Immigrants

After the monumental success of the national health insurance plan in providing coverage for all Iranians last year, it is now going a step further to cover Afghan immigrants living in the country.
The managing director of the Bureau for Aliens & Foreign Immigrants (BAFIA), Ahmad Mohammadi Far, said the coverage is only for legal migrants in the 14 provinces where they are allowed to live and work. The foreign residents mostly come from Afghanistan and have been granted either refugee status or temporary work permits.
‘’There are 36,000 Afghans in our schools who enjoy the same status as Iranian students, and families who are in financial distress, are provided extra help,’’ Mohammadi Far said. He added that 12,000 Afghan students are attending university in Iran and 17,000 have graduated in the past. ‘’There are also 17,000 Afghan religious students in our theological schools.”
As for permission to work, he said, 36,000 work permits have so far been issued for foreign residents by the ministry of labor, and 29 immigration camps established in 13 provinces with help from international organizations to provide shelter for Afghans. On illegal residents, Mohammadi Far said, a clampdown began 3 years ago, and a ‘’substantial number’’ of illegals were deported from the country.

 Ultimatum
Describing the legal process for immigrants to obtain residence permit, Mohammadi Far said according to a plan launched in 2010, residence cards have been issued to prove their legal status. ‘’So far, 270,000 residence cards have been issued for legal immigrants who comprise 50,000 families.’’  Another 47,000 families have also entered the country legally.
He said the 10th round of issuing residence permits for Afghans will start from May 3, and added that the clampdown on illegals will also intensify in the same period. ‘’This year we will step up our efforts to deal with Afghans who are here illegally in cooperation with the government of Afghanistan,” the official said.
The clampdown would include repatriating Afghans who lack legal status and imposing fines on employers who hire them. ‘’Each year 300,000 unauthorized immigrants are arrested in the country and sent back home,’’ he pointed out, estimating the number of illegal foreigners (mostly Afghans) to be 500,000.
On school tuition fee and the cost of college education, he said, “immigrant kids have to pay on par with Iranian children and if families have difficulty paying the fee, they will receive free education.”
 Marrying Foreigners
Mohammadi Far observed that one of the problems is marriages that take place between Iranians and immigrants, clarifying that while the marriages are not ‘’illegitimate,’’ however, families should first consult officials of the interior, intelligence and the foreign ministries before allowing their daughters to marry foreigners.
‘’Last year, permits for 1,160 marriages were issued inside Iran and consent was given to 773 marriages outside the country,’’ he said. Contrary to what many immigrants think, marrying an Iranian woman will not result in their ‘’naturalization.’’ Becoming an Iranian citizen is a lengthy process and has to take place in accordance with the law. ‘’Even the children from these marriages won’t be considered Iranian citizens unless they apply for citizenship when they become 18 years old,’’ he said.
Immigrants can also hold public offices with limited authority, he said, and hoped that with the steps taken so far, “they would be organized in an efficient way.” There are 28 NGOs run by Afghan immigrants in Iran which are operating freely and “we welcome their contribution in helping manage immigrant affairs,’’ he added.

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