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Half a million Afghan refugees voluntarily repatriated from Iran: UNHCR

Half a million Afghans have left Iran to return home since a joint program for voluntary repatriation of refugees began in April 2002, the office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees said in Tehran on Thursday, IRNA reported.

The half a million mark was reached on July 23, the office said in a press release, a copy of which was faxed to IRNA.

The voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees is supervised by the governments of Iran and Afghanistan and UNHCR according to a Geneva agreement, they signed in April 2002.

The head of Iran's Bureau for Foreign Nationals and Migrants Affairs, Ahmad Hosseini, said in January that 600,000 Afghans will voluntarily return home in the Iranian year of 1382 which started on March 21, 2003.

The remaining refugees will be repatriated by the end of 1383, Hosseini said. "Planning has been made in such a way that the file of Afghan refugees in Iran will have been closed by the end of 1383," he said.

According to a World Food Program report last year, Iran has played host to about 2.65 million refugees since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, including 2.35 million Afghans, 203,000 Iraqis and 5,000 nationals of other countries.

The government estimates that 1.8 million Afghans live in Iran currently.

... Payvand News - 7/25/03 ... --

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