4 November 2010
H.E Mr. Mahmoud Barimani
Director General of the International Economic Affairs and Specialized Agencies
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran
on Agenda Item 61:
Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
(New York, 4 November 2010)
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
At the outset, I would like to thank the High Commissioner for Refugees for his report to the Committee which certainly enriches our deliberations and discussions on the subject.
Throughout the past decades, the outbreak of international conflicts, wide- spread military operations and continued occupations have forced millions of refugees around the glob to leave their beloved home- lands. Being close to the centre of conflicts, the neighboring countries, often from developing world take the heavy burden of international responsibilities to lessen the plight of refugees.
This situation particularly holds true concerning our region. By accommodating an estimated 3 million refugees and displaced persons, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been the host for the largest and protracted refugee populations in the world in the past three decades. My country still continues to host more than one million Afghan and Iraqi refugees and displaced persons who sought shelter in Iran since 30 years ago.
The long-lasting presence of refugees and displaced persons in the Islamic Republic of Iran has imposed numerous socio-economic pressures on the capacities of the country in different sectors such as employment, shelter, education, health and treatment. Nevertheless, the process of voluntary repatriation of refugees from my country was slow in the past five years during which only half a percent refugees returned to their countries of origin annually.
The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran reiterates that the voluntary repatriation of registered Afghan refugees and displaced persons is the most preferred durable solution. Their resettlement in the third countries, as stipulated by the High Commissioner “tangible and effective example of burden sharing” by the international community, is equally important and could be regarded as a viable solution to voluntary repatriation. On the other hand, we stress on the fact that local integration could not be an acceptable and applicable solution especially for the countries where protracted refugees exist. Having examined the causes of slow trend of voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees, we continue to emphasize that combination of factors such as health, unemployment, lack of livelihood and residence in Afghanistan adversely affect the voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees and lead to their return to Iran in a null circle.
As long as the existing situation is rampant, it is imperative that the international community undertakes further responsibility to provide more generously and indiscriminately its assistance and contribution to returnees under the auspices of the respective national authorities in Afghanistan. Such assistance, however, should mainly address a prioritized plan of action including employment, shelter, health and education. The future of Afghan refugees depends first and foremost on their capacity building, empowerment and skill upgrading. We are proud to have provided ample employment and vocational and technical training opportunities for the Afghan refugees during their protracted presence in Iran to enable them to contribute to the construction of their home- land.
In supporting refugees and displaced persons during the past three decades, the Islamic Republic of Iran has gone far beyond its international commitments in terms of provision of assistance. By providing 340 thousand job opportunities, as also stated by the High Commissioner, and providing indiscriminate and generous subsidies spared on essential commodities, the total cost and expenditure borne by the Islamic Republic of Iran for such hospitality amounts to billions of dollars, while the contribution made by the international community to cover this expenditure is too less.
Implementation of the “Targeted Subsidies Law” and “price actualization” in my country will affect the whole community as well as refugees and displaced persons. Therefore, it is expected that the international community perceive this new economic situation and appropriately address the new condition for refugees in Iran.
As one of the major countries involved in protracted refugee situation, the Islamic Republic of Iran believes that instead of focusing on first host country and providing the option of integration in the local community we should rather concentrate on strengthening international cooperation between the origin, host and third countries to realize the international community’s participation in refugee issues.
In conclusion, I do hope that our discussions and deliberations would result in strengthening the positive and constructive interaction of international community as well as the effective participation of its members in shouldering the responsibility and expenses stem from the plight of refugees and displaced persons.