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Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees to visit Iran

Tehran, Aug 2, IRNA - United Nations Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees Judy Cheng Hopkins is to pay a two-day visit to Iran from 4-7 August 2007.

This is her first trip to Iran since she was appointed to the post in 15 February 2006, reported a press release issued by UNHCR office in Tehran Wednesday.

Cheng, who holds the rank of UN Assistant High Commissioner, supervises UNHCR operations around the world. She also oversees the Division of Operational Support which includes the Emergency and Security Services.

Prior to her assignment with UNHCR, Cheng devoted her entire career to humanitarian and development work in several other UN agencies, WFP, UNDP and UNCDF.

The first leg of her trip is Kerman, beginning with Bardshir refugee camp, where she will hear refugee's voices and assess their needs.

This is jointly managed by BAFIA/UNHCR. After her camp visit, Cheng will meet the donors and fly back to Tehran.

During her stay, she will meet with senior Iranian and Afghan officials as well as Afghan and Iraqi refugee representatives.

They will address the problems and concerns of the refugee communities in exile. These would include issues such as housing, employment, security, health and education.

On Monday 6 August Cheng is scheduled to meet the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Seyed Abbas Araghchi, in order to discuss further cooperation on the plight of Afghan and Iraqi refugees in Iran.

In addition she will also meet senior officials from the Ministry of Interior and Foreign Affairs.

Cheng will give a press conference in which she will reply to media questions, regarding Afghan and Iraqi refugees in Iran and the situation of refugees and UNHCR activities in General.

The Press conference will be held on Monday 6 August 2007 from 18:00 to 18:45 at UNHCR office.

Intense work needed to reintegrate returning Afghan refugees

Tehran, Aug 2, IRNA - The international donor and humanitarian community must work even more intensively to ensure that Afghan refugees returning home are able to resume a normal life, with the lack of land, shelter and jobs posing a very long-term challenge for which there are no quick fixes, the United Nations refugee agency has warned.

Since 2002, some 5 million Afghan refugees have returned to their battle-scarred homeland, mostly from Pakistan and Iran, a majority aided by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a press release issued by the UN Information Center (UNIC) said here Thursday.

There are currently three million registered Afghans left in neighbouring countries, most of whom have been abroad for more than two decades.

"The return of millions of Afghans to their homes and communities has been one of the major success stories of Afghanistan's recovery," UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Operations Judy Cheng-Hopkins said Wednesday at the end of a three-day visit to see first hand the challenges faced by refugees returning to Afghanistan.

"Repatriation will certainly continue but we will have to work even more intensively with the government of Afghanistan, the donor community, and our implementing partners if we are to make return and reintegration sustainable for those who choose to return home in future," she added.

She noted that the deteriorating security situation in part of the country and difficult economic conditions underlined how important it will be to continue to maintain a gradual and voluntary approach to repatriation.

"The primary responsibility lies with the government of Afghanistan. But UNHCR will look closely at how we and our partners will need to work from now on to meet the reintegration needs of the long staying population," she declared Cheng-Hopkins left Afghanistan Wednesday for Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, to extend the Tripartite Agreement governing the voluntary repatriation of refugees from Pakistan.

The agreement, first signed in 2003, is a joint programme between the Governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan and UNHCR to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of registered Afghan refugees living in Pakistan.

From Pakistan, she goes to Iran, where there are currently just over 900,000 registered Afghan refugees. The main purpose of her mission to Afghanistan, where she met with senior Government officials, was to review UNHCR's activities in the country, one of the agency's most important operations in the world alongside Iraq and Sudan.

She visited one of the busiest returnee centres, close to Kabul, the capital, where she met with families as they received a UNHCR cash grant for transport and reintegration expenses and prepared to travel onwards to resettle in their places of origin. She then went to Parwan province to see a land allocation site.

... Payvand News - 8/2/07 ... --

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