During the meeting, the participants discussed possible ways to coordinate repatriation of Afghan refugees from Iran, the UNHCR role and a number of issues of concern.
Director General of the Interior Ministry's Bureau for the Alien and Foreign Immigrants Affairs (BAFIA) Ahmad Hosseini headed the Iranian delegation to the tripartite meeting.
The Iranian side stressed speedy repatriation of Afghan refugees from the country particularly those who do not have certification to live in Iran.
The governments of Afghanistan and Iran and UNHCR reaffirmed their commitment to the voluntary character of repatriation of Afghans from Iran, as laid out in the current Joint Program which governs the return of Afghans.
The agreement covers Afghans registered in Iran by the government in 2001 or 2003, all of whom can benefit from UNHCR assistance to repatriate.
The parties noted the successful return of almost 700,000 Afghans from Iran since the start of the repatriation operation in April 2002, including over 40,000 individuals from the beginning of 2004.
The meeting focused on ways to increase the number of Afghans choosing to repatriate.
The three sides agreed on increased transport capacity for returning Afghans, a waiver by BAFIA provincial offices of fees paid by departing refugees who cannot afford them, additional visits to refugees and displaced persons in Iran by Afghan officials and community leaders to share information on conditions in home areas and the need to allocate land by the Afghanistan government to returnees from Iran.
The three delegations also pledged their support for the inclusion of Afghan refugees in Iran in the forthcoming Afghanistan national elections.
Iran had announced earlier that Afghan refugees should return to their home country by the end of the current Iranian year (March 20, 2005) and from next year all Afghan citizens should have legal presence in the country.
Some 1,500 million Afghan refugees are currently in Iran, 500,000 of whom are predicted to leave the country by the end of the current Iranian year.
... Payvand News - 4/29/04 ... --