Iran ready to repatriate Afghan refugees: UN
ISLAMABD, Jan 9: The Islamabad-based UN Coordinator Erick De Mul has not confirmed the reports about expulsion of Afghan refugees from Iran and said Tehran has agreed to the voluntary repatriation of the refugees.
De Mull, who led a three-member delegation to Iran, said on his arrival in Islamabad that Iranian officials have agreed in principle that the return of Afghan refugees to their country should be voluntary.
Taliban Information Minister, Mullah Amir Khan Muttaqi, had claimed last week that Iran had expelled 10,000 refugees who have arrived in the border province of Nimroz. Taliban had also protested to Iran on the expulsion of the Afghan refugees.
The UN team discussed with the Iranian officials the future of the two million Afghan refugees who are residing in Iran. Representatives form the UN world food programme and the UN refugee's agency accompanied Mull. De Mul said Iran wants repatriation of the refugees because the country's economy is suffering from reduction of oil prices. Unemployment is on the rise and the ministry dealing with Afghan refugees is under tremendous pressure to solve the problem.
He said the United Nations has offered to help but it cannot do much as the UN international staff is out of Afghanistan. Foreign staff was withdrawn in August last year in the wake of US missile attack on Afghanistan.
The UN coordinator said during talks with the officials of Iranian Foreign Ministry his team discussed the relentless civil war. He said Iran is opposed to military solution to Afghan crisis. Iran is hopeful that Afghan groups will come together and find ways and means to establish a representative government.
In November and December, some 12,000 Afghans who were refugees in Iran returned to Afghanistan with the help of the UN. But, UN senior officials want now to engage the Iranian foreign ministry about what they intend to do with the practically two million Afghans who live in Iran.
The UN officials say the impetus for the visit came from the UN special envoy to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi.-NNI
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