6 November 2012
Statement by Delegation of the Islamic Republic of Iran,
Third Committee of the 67thSession of the UNGA
Agenda item 62 on
UN High Commissioner for Refugees
New York, 6 November 2012
In recent decades, the Islamic Republic of Iran has provided refuge to the largest number of refugees in the world and despite limited resources and being subjected to unfair sanctions has only been able to continue providing for the needs of the refugees by remaining true to its humanitarian principles and obligations to the refugees convention. In the past three decades, the international organizations and donor countries have provided some assistance; however these donations are dwarfed in comparison to the expenses of providing for the refugees. Nonetheless, the Iranian Government is thankful to donors and the UNHCR.
For more than ten years now, a government that enjoys broad international backing has been in power in Afghanistan. However millions of Afghan refugees, despite their heartfelt longing to return, continue to live in host countries. They remain because there is little possibility for reintegration. It must also be said that the remaining refugee population has different needs now that go beyond rudimentary assistance.
For more than thirty years, large numbers of afghan refugees have been living in Iranian cities and continue to be provided with such services as healthcare, primary education, public transport, protection, etc.
However, today the refugee community has moved away from basic needs such as shelter and food to secondary needs such as higher education, costly treatments, etc.
Last year only 21000 Afghan refugees left Iran to be repatriated. It goes without saying that adequate employment opportunities, education facilities, advanced healthcare and speedier reconstruction make repatriation more attractive. More afghan refugees would be willing to return to Afghanistan if they felt there was brighter welfare prospects back home. The sad truth is that the international community has made little effort to improve the situation of those who return.
Voluntary, secure and respectful repatriation is the right of any refugee. We also agree that the best and most durable solution to the refugee problem is the return of the refugee to his or her homeland. We in fact strongly support this strategy. That is why the Islamic Republic of Iranis objectively and practically participating in Afghan reconstruction projects. In this context, the world has acknowledged that Iran has fulfilled its Afghan obligations. However, sustained repatriation with security and respect requires assistance to help build a new life that includes basic social welfare. Thus, there is no doubt that the main reason behind the slow pace of voluntary repatriation programs is a lack of adequate infrastructure to help with the resumption of lives. With this in mind, housing — as the main concern of those who intend to return — must become the main priority of donor countries. Best case scenarios involve the construction of exclusive residential areas for those who return and the provision of basic infrastructure i.e. roads, potable water, electricity, health centers, schools, etc. It goes without saying that such facilities will be pivotal in encouraging those who are thinking about voluntary repatriation, to return home.
Resettlement figures — as another strategy to help resolve the refugee problem – are very disappointing. In the current calendar year, only 835 Afghan citizens living in Iran have been resettled through such programs. Additionally, from 1999 to the present day, the total figure for such resettlements has not even reached 10,000. This number is better understood once we contrast it with the yearly average birth rate of the refugee community in Iran, which is 40,000 births.
Obviously the Islamic Republic of Iran is profoundly thankful to the contact group for its efforts and the countries that are providing resettlement opportunities. But it is surely agreed that compared to the size of the refugee population, resettlement figures are insignificant.
I stress that although the Islamic Republic of Iran has spent billions of dollars to fulfill its international obligations and provide health care, education, public transport, general security, fuel, social services etc. and has tried to be the best possible host for waves of refugees who seemingly arrived overnight; it is now time for the international community to provide the necessary funding for refugees living in Iran and to assist with the reconstruction of the Afghan infrastructure – especially the expansion of educational and healthcare facilities. Each year, to provide for the education of 288,000 Afghan and Iraqi refugee students — who are attending different grades of Iranian schools and on average require 1200 education dollars per student –the Iranian government spends 345 million dollars.
Tthe International Conference on the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees to Support Voluntary Repatriation, Sustainable Reintegration and Assistance to Host Countries was held in Geneva in May 2012 during which strategies for the return of Afghan refugees to their home country were discussed.
The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that if the outcome of the conference is followed up and implemented; it can very well help the international community to find a way out of the largest and the longest running refugee situation in contemporary history.
Today the international community has been given an opportunity to provide for the reasonable needs of refugees that want to return to Afghanistan. It must rise to the occasion and provide for the construction of educational spaces, health centers and economic infrastructure to encourage voluntary repatriation and help realize the long cherished aspirations of displaced Afghans to return and reintegrate in the life of their homeland. In this context, support for voluntary repatriation should be at the focus of the attention.
We hope that greater support for the refugee community is received and the positive and constructive engagement of the international system is strengthened. This in turn can only be made possible through the collaboration, support and practical participation of all members of the international community.