TEHRAN (FNA)- Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Office in Iran Sivanka Dhanapala praised Iran’s “exemplary” hospitality and assistance to foreign refugees.
“Iran’s approach as a country hosting refugees is exemplary and it is an honor for me when I speak on behalf of Iran in international events,” Dhanapala said, addressing a ceremony in the city of Qom, Central Iran.
“I always represent Iran as its ambassador in refugee affairs most of the time when I am outside Iran and in communication with the international community,” he added.
Dhanapala noted that when Afghans came to Iran, their literacy rate was 6 percent while it has now increased to 60 percent.
In January, Dhanapala said that Iran is currently hosting the largest population of foreign refugees.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran has been hosting the largest population of refugees in world during the past 3 decades,” Dhanapala said.
He noted that the Iranian government has in various emergency conditions properly heeded its responsibilities in offering humanitarian contributions most effectively.
Iran has been a generous host for more than 2 million Afghan refugees for two decades, with little help from the international community.
Tehran has called on the international community to strengthen support for Iran for hosting the Afghan refugees and provide repatriation support for the refugees.
Voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees from Iran has slowed in recent years in the face of poor security and economic conditions in Afghanistan, which Tehran blames on the US-led invasion of the country in 2001.
The office of the UNHCR was established by the UN General Assembly in 1950.
According to the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, the agency is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees.
UNHCR first opened an office in Iran in 1984 and expanded its presence with the massive influx of Iraqi refugees following the Persian Gulf War in 1991 and the start of Afghans’ mass return movement to Afghanistan in 1992.
Today UNHCR has its Central office representation in Tehran, plus three sub offices in Mashhad, Kerman and Ahwaz.