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Aid agencies facing too many hurdles to work in Iran, UN refugee agency says

2 December - Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) trying to help refugees in Iran are meeting frequent administrative obstacles, despite official statements of welcome, the United Nations refugee agency said today.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it has warned the Iranian Government about the problems faced by NGOs trying to operate in a country that is home to one of the world's biggest refugee populations.

UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond told a press briefing in Geneva that many NGOs have had their applications for work permits stymied, while their work plans are often not endorsed by Iran's NGO committee, a pre-requisite for operating in Iran.

Mr. Redmond said the numerous administrative hurdles are putting off "even the most experienced aid groups," adding that almost all NGOs are affected.

"Even more worrying is that some NGOs recently had to discontinue their activities following serious pressure and difficulties faced by their staff. More than half the NGOs that were working with us earlier this year have now left the country," he said.

Mr. Redmond said the situation of the NGOs' key needs not being met has arisen "despite the high level of official government support."

... Payvand News - 12/3/03 ... --

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