4,000 Afghans seek citizenship

Around 4,000 applications for citizenship by children of Iranian mothers and non-Iranian fathers have so far been filed at the Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants Affairs (BAFIA) in Khorasan Razavi Province.

A number of children from these marriages do not have residential permits but their identity and nationality and that of their fathers have been ascertained. The children, whose parents’ marriage has been registered with the competent state authority, have one year to apply for Iranian citizenship after they attain the age of 18 years. Their applications are sent to Tehran for further processing.

It is estimated that there are 12,000 Iranian women in the province who are married to foreign nationals, mainly Afghans, and have an estimated 20,000 children. According to Iranian law, legally resident foreign immigrants can marry Iranian women but they need prior permission from the Interior Ministry, IRNA reported.

As per official figures, there are 32,000 children in the country who don’t have birth certificates. Most of them are children of Iranian mothers and non-Iranian fathers.

Nearly 5,300 marriages between Iranian women and foreign nationals, mostly Afghans, were legally registered before 2006.

There are 150,000 refugees, 95% of whom are Afghans, residing in Khorasan Razavi Province, (including 60,000 children who are studying in schools across the province), and 40,000 have been given employment cards. Iraqis make up 3% of the remaining and 2% belong to other nationalities, the Persian-language newspaper ‘Khorasan’ reported.

This means that of the total number of 950,000 legally registered Afghan refugees 150,000 live in the northeastern province.
Since the 1980s, following the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the civil war in the 1990s and the US-led invasion in 2001, Iran has hosted over four million Afghan refugees. Several hundred thousand Kuwaitis and other nationals too refuge in Iran in the wake soon after the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded the Persian Gulf emirate in 1990.

Amayesh Scheme

The government has devised a legal system to monitor and register the entry of Afghans. BAFIA undertakes the re-registration periodically of refugees under the ‘Amayesh (refugee registration) Scheme,’ by which they are provided Amayesh cards that enable them access to basic services, and facilitate the issuance of work permits.

The scheme also mandates the refugees to present their identity documents each year. Therefore, in the case of any change in their legal status such as marriage, childbirth or death, the information gets registered in their personal data.

For instance, if a foreign national gets a place in the university, his/her refugee card becomes void and a student residency permit must be obtained.
Today, despite the repatriation of millions of Afghan refugees, there are still a million legally registered Afghans living in Iran, besides nearly 1million to 1.5 million non-registered Afghans who live and work in Iran, although joint efforts continue by the government and the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, to repatriate them home or to any other country willing to take them.

According to the last 9th Amayesh refugee re-registration program there were 979,410 refugees in Iran (951,142 Afghan and 28,268 Iraqi) of whom 97% reside in urban areas and less than 3% in settlements.

Tehran has often informed the government in Kabul and the international community that it wants the immigrants to leave sooner rather than later. It has criticized the UN refugee agency for not doing enough to repatriate the Afghans who keep coming in from along the long and porous joint eastern border regions infested with criminals including drug cartels and human traffickers.

Most refugees cite the rampant instability, unending war, civil conflict, poverty, unemployment and oppression of the medieval Taliban militia as the reasons for their refusal to return home.  They see economic opportunity and safety in Iran and insist on not going back despite the difficulties that usually accompany refugee life, especially for the illegals and their families.

By Financial Tribune