EU Says Helping Afghans in Iran With $6m!

Citing its own economic problems, Iran has officially made known to the United Nations, the government in Kabul and the Europeans that it wants the Afghans to leave sooner rather than later
EU Says Helping Afghans in Iran With $6m!
EU Says Helping Afghans in Iran With $6m!

EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides who was in Iran from October 22-24 for the second time this year, visited humanitarian projects across the country and announced additional aid for Afghan refugees.

During the three-day visit, he met Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, Minister of Interior Rahmani Fazli and representatives from Iran’s Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants Affairs (BAFIA), according to a press release from the European Commission in Brussels.

Stylianides announced an additional €6 million ($6.6 million) in humanitarian funding to help Afghan refugees in Iran, bringing the overall EU humanitarian support to €12.5 million in 2016, with a special focus on education and health services for Afghan refugee children.

Fazli said that Iran has hosted over 3 million Afghan refugees for more than three decades and the international aid in this regard covers only 3% of the expenditure on refugees spent by the Iranian government, IRNA reported.

He cautioned that if the international community fails in sustainable repatriation of the refugees “they will flood European countries.”

To help stem the influx, the EU is increasing aid to certain countries on migrant routes in the hope of persuading people there to stay put. So far these have included Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and some African countries.

Now the EU is trying this strategy in Iran, which sits on the main transit route for Afghan refugees -- the second-largest group after Syrians to have reached Europe by sea last year, Reuters reported.

 “It’s better to be close to your home and move back when the situation gets better than to be far away,” Stylianides said at a refugee administration center in Tehran.

“It’s better for Afghan refugees to integrate in this society than in Europe. Here it’s the same religion, similar mentality, culture. It’s much harder in, let’s say, Germany.”

Stylianides appreciated Iran’s assistance to the millions of refugees and said the Iranian government has hosted Afghan immigrants for more than three decades at “huge financial and social cost for Iran.”

He appreciated the directive of the Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei to provide all Afghan children with schooling, even to those illegally staying in the country. Aid groups on the ground say some 48,000 refugee children enrolled in 2015.

  Equal Concern

“The EU and Iran are equally concerned with the humanitarian situation in the region. I am pleased to see the outstanding and strategic efforts of Iran to provide quality assistance to Afghan refugees. Our funding contributes to these efforts and especially to supporting the education of Afghan children.

“During my visit, I also discussed the increased cooperation in the field of civil protection and disaster risk reduction that the EU and Iran agreed in April this year,” Stylianides said.

On his earlier visit in April to Tehran along with other European commissioners, Iran and the EU had discussed enhancing humanitarian coordination and humanitarian assistance delivery in respect of International Humanitarian Law in the crises affecting Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan.

  EU Should Do More

Since 2002, the European Commission has been providing humanitarian aid and between 2002 and 2015, it allocated €10.5 million to Afghan refugee programs in Iran.

However, EU’s aid to Iran fades compared to 3 billion euros the bloc promised to Turkey for its help in managing migration.

Iranian officials say the foreign aid for hosting the Afghan refugee community is pittance and the EU should do more. Social scientists and immigration experts in and out of Iran have regularly censured the EU, the UN and other international bodies for doing next to nothing to help Tehran carry the prohibitive economic cost of caring for the millions of Afghan refugees since 1979.

Citing its own economic problems, Iran has officially made known to the United Nations, the government in Kabul and the Europeans that it wants the Afghans to leave sooner rather than later.

“I would call it an investment for the European Union, any kind of support to the education system,” Reuters quoted Hamid Shamsaldili an official at BAFIA as saying.

“There has been quite a lot of hope, from the Iranian authorities as well as from our side, that this political opening (with the West that has started to improve slowly after the sanctions were lifted), will create more funding options,” said Olivier Vandecasteele, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s head in Iran.

“So far it has raised interest but it hasn’t translated into any additional huge funding decisions.”

During Stylianides’ visit, Swedish officials were in Tehran to pick 157 Afghans for resettlement, a tiny share of the large numbers of such requests.

After decades of protracted displacement of Afghans, Iran still hosts more than 970,000 documented refugees and more than 2 million undocumented ones. Iran has hosted the large refugee community for more than 30 years now as Afghans first fled the Soviet invasion, then the long Taliban insurgency, followed by the US offensive and now Islamic State attacks.

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