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Iran, Afghanistan, UNHCR agree to extend Afghans' repatriation

Tehran, June 29, IRNA-Iran, Afghanistan and the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees signed a deal in Herat, Afghanistan on Tuesday to extend a joint program for voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees.

The joint program is a second extension of the agreement between the three parties to facilitate the voluntary and gradual repatriation of Afghan refugees in Iran, according to a press release, a copy of which was made available to IRNA by the UNHCR's Tehran office.

Since the launch of the program in 2002, some 1.3 million Afghan refugees have returned voluntarily from Iran; 780,000 assisted by UNHCR and 520,000 spontaneously. The new joint program will be enforced until March 2006 and it is estimated that some 200,000 Afghan refugees will opt for voluntary repatriation during that period.

The agreement underlined the voluntary nature of the repatriation and ensures provisions of basic support and assistance during the repatriation process for transportation, medical facilities and customs procedures.

There are currently some 950,000 registered Afghan refugees remaining in Iran, the lowest number in almost 20 years. "It is essential that the repatriation program continues and the UNHCR continues to be supported by the international community to enable us to assist in the voluntary repatriation and to provide assistance to Afghan refugees remaining in Iran," says Sten A. Bronee, Representative of UNHCR in Iran.

... Payvand News - 6/29/05 ... --

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