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Iran scraps permanent residence for Afghan refugees

Iran will withdraw from September 23 permanent residence for Afghan refugees as part of the Islamic Republic's plans to gradually repatriate all Afghans, the head of aliens affairs department in Khorasan province, Mohammad Olama, said in Mashhad on Saturday, IRNA reported.

"The card for permanent residence of Afghan refugees in the Islamic Republic of Iran will be regarded as null and void from September 23," he said.

He said Afghan refugees in the Khorassan province, which accounts for 10 percent of total Afghans in Iran, were required to submit their cards to the alien affairs office by that date.

"Those refugees who do not hand their cards over will be considered as illegal immigrants despite holding the cards," Olama added.

Afghan refugees, found to to have difficulties in returning home, will be given cards for temporary residence, the official said.

There are as many as 2.5 million Afghans in Iran now, according to Iranian officials.

Up to 400,000 Afghans returned home last Iranian year which ended March 21, 2003. The voluntary repatriation was jointly supervised by the Iranian and Afghan governments as well as UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The repatriation marked the achievement of a tripartite Geneva agreement between the governments of Iran and Afghanistan and UNHCR to oversee the voluntary repatriation of the same number in 2002.

UNHCR is also planning to arrange the voluntary repatriation of 500,000 Afghan refugees from Iran in 2003, UN High Commissioner for Refugees in the Islamic Republic, Philippe Lavanchy, said in March.

The head of Iran's Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants 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 played host to about 2.65 million refugees, of whom 2.35 million were Afghans, 203,000 Iraqis and 5,000 nationals of other countries.

... Payvand News - 5/24/03 ... --

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