KABUL: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has lauded Iran’s long record of generosity in hosting uprooted Afghans and called on the international community to do more to ensure they can finally go home and rebuild their lives. “In my work I’m used to visiting the worst places in the world, where people are suffering and life is tough,” António Guterres said, during a visit to Torbat-e-Jam, a camp located about 80 kilometres from the country’s border with Afghanistan.
The settlement, built by the Iranian Government about 10 years ago, houses some 5,000 Afghan refugees.
“It warms my heart to visit what is probably the best refugee settlement in Iran, if not the world,” he stated as he surveyed the 100-hectare refugee community of solid brick houses, well-equipped schools and clinics and a mosque and community centre featuring a refugee art exhibit. At least 5 million Afghans have returned to their homeland since 2002 – more than 4 million of them with the help of UNHCR.
There are still almost 3 million Afghan refugees living in other countries, including nearly 1 million in Iran. Mr. Guterres praised the generosity and hospitality of the Iranian people toward refugees from other countries and for receiving millions of them in recent decades.
“And let’s be frank. Iran has done this with little support from the international community. I’m the first to recognize that the resources my office brings are disproportionate to the generosity of the Iranian Government and people,” he stated.
He also said he hoped that the Afghan refugees would be able to return home soon and begin rebuilding their lives. “It is difficult to find a nation in the world which has suffered so much in recent decades,” he said. “The best solution for refugees is to go back home in a voluntary, safe and dignified way. But we all feel a certain frustration that several years after the fall of the Taliban, there are still many impediments to return,” he noted.
Afghan refugees face a number of challenges upon their return to their home country, including shelter, land allocation, health, education and employment. Mr. Guterres, who arrived in Iran after four days in Afghanistan, said an international conference sponsored by the Afghan Foreign Ministry and UNHCR in Kabul last week had unveiled a new strategy aimed at overcoming many of those impediments.
There was a lot of support from both the Afghan Government and the international community at the meeting for incorporating the needs of returned refugees in the country’s five-year blueprint for rebuilding, known as the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS).-SANA