H.E. President Karzai secures extension for refugees in Iran

Kabul, January 31, 2005 – Iran has agreed to extend the date for the return of Afghan refugees as a result of talks held during the recent visit of H.E. President Hamid Karzai to Iran.

"An agreement on extending the deadline allowing Afghan refugees to stay legally in Iran for one more year was signed by President Hamid Karzai while he was in Tehran on January 25," presidential spokesman, Hamed Elmi said.

Refugees with legal documents would be allowed to renew their documents with the permission to stay an additional year granted to them but those lacking any legal documents would be expelled to Afghanistan as soon as they were arrested.

There are still as many as one million Afghans in Iran and the Iranian government has repeatedly asked for their repatriation to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001.

Officials of the Iranian embassy in Kabul said they were not exactly aware of any decision on the extension, but added that the Afghans whose permits had lapsed should renew them. Else the Iranian police would arrest and expel them to Afghanistan they said.

The issue of forcible expulsion of Afghans from Iran has been an issue of contention in recent weeks. The issue came to the fore during the visit of UNHCR Commissioner Rudd Lubbers to the region earlier this month. Lubbers expressed grave concern at the unilateral policy adopted by Iran calling on Teheran to discuss the issue.