Tehran, July 25, IRNA-Director General of the Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants Affairs (BAFIA) Ahmad Hosseini said in Tehran on Monday that Iran does not intend to extend the Afghan repatriation plan. Speaking to reporters, he added that according to the Geneva agreement, by the end of current Iranian year (March 20) the residence permit of Afghan refugees residing in Iran will have expired.
The tripartite agreement was signed in Geneva by representatives from Iran, Afghanistan and the United Nations High Commissioner for the Refugees (UNHCR) in April 2002 for voluntary repatriation of refugees.
Turning to the fact that the Afghans repatriation is currently underway with joint support of the Afghan government and the United Nations High Commissioner for the Refugees (UNHCR), he underlined that after March 21, 2006, no residence permit will be issued for Afghan refugees currently residing in Iran.
"If the Afghans currently residing in Iran do not voluntarily return home under the current repatriation program, they will have to leave the country in the coming year while being subject to some limitations.
"During the past three years, 1.4 million Afghan refugees have returned home voluntarily and under the repatriation plan they will enjoy the support of Iran and UNHCR," he added.
He noted that currently 970,000 Afghans still reside in Iran, adding that 30,000 have returned home voluntarily during the past month. He also put the number of those already registered for repatriation at 70,000.
Hosseini said that registration for repatriation of Afghan refugees is underway in 11 separate centers across the country and a growing number of voluntary registration is expected up to the end of summer.
"The Afghans who have not so far returned home are those who have been residing here for more than 15 years, including those having married to Iranian ladies or born in Iran. The repatriation of these Afghans is not so simple as that of the 1.4 million who are already in Afghanistan.
"Any Afghan refugee intending to leave the country next year, will not only have to undergo some limitations such as paying tuition for their children studying at school, but will have to pay tax for urban services and the expenses of their repatriation," added the official.
In response to a question about the call of the Afghan government on Iran to extend the residence permit of the Afghans currently residing in Iran, he said that in accordance with the Geneva agreement, they can no more be considered as refugees after March 21, 2006.
Concerning the assistance of Iran to Afghan refugees, he said, "Twenty new townships are expected to be constructed by the Afghan government. Iran has announced that it will provide the Afghan refugees returning from Iran to reside in the new townships with the required services.
"Iran's Consulate in the Afghan city of Herat has already identified 600 Iranian women married to Afghans. Iran's government is determined to help such families to solve their financial problems," concluded Hosseini.
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