More than three decades of war has triggered an exodus of Afghan refugees to other countries. The human stream has been huge enough to prompt Afghanistan to set up an independent ministry to handle the issue of the displaced people.
Afghan Minister for Refugees and Repatriation Hussain Alami Balkhi – who was in Tehran earlier this month for the fourth session of the strategic quartet committee on the Afghan refugees attended by representatives from Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – told Tasnim News Agency that the Afghan government has yet to be given clear details about the status of homeless Afghans overseas.
He also said more than 840,000 refugees are living in Iran and 1.6 million others in Pakistan, adding in the quartet session, Kabul asked Tehran and Islamabad to be given more information on the Afghan refugees so that it can make better planning to help them.
Balkhi went on to say that Kabul used to give $200 to each member of an Afghan family once they returned to their hometowns, adding his government will increase the financial incentives. In addition to the previous amount, government will hand out at least $3,000 to the families of five or more who return home, he stressed.
The Afghan minister also gave an interview to Sharq daily (May 26) about the refugees and said that his ministry needs $166 million in finances [to handle the refugees’ problems]. His request came against the backdrop of recent reports which revealed embezzlement and massive administrative corruption plaguing the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation and the previous government. The following is the translation of excerpts of his remarks in the interview:
Afghan refugees in Syria
These days, nowhere in the world can an event be exclusively confined to the place it occurs. Incidents take place in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, but the locals in these countries are not the only ones who play a role in those incidents.
People from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Arab nations and elsewhere live in Syria. The Afghan media [like other news outlets] pursue what is happening there, but what matters more is how the Afghans are living there. The Afghan media seek to shed light on the presence of the Afghans in Syria and Iraq, trying to find out whether they go there voluntarily just like other nationalities.
If the way the Afghans head to these two countries comes to light, it will help us provide answers to the existing questions. The onus is on the Iranian media to shed more light on the following questions: Is it true that the Afghan refugees are in Syria and if yes how?
Supreme Leader’s stance on education of Afghan children
The stance of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution [that the Afghan children – both documented and undocumented – should be signed up in public schools across Iran] carries an Islamic, human message. It entails all [human] values. Nobody should be denied the right to education anywhere in the world.
Personally I thanked him [the Supreme Leader] in a meeting, asking the Leader to order the speedy implementation of the Afghan children’s education in Iran. Joint committees have been activated to that end. I hope no Afghan children are deprived of education during the new school year in Iran [starting late September].
Plans on dispatch of Afghan workforce to Persian Gulf states
We are pursuing the case. Afghanistan’s Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled has held talks on the workforce issue with the UAE. The two sides are to ink agreements on the Afghan labor in the Persian Gulf countries and on the Afghans who are doing business there.
Similar agreements are being drafted between Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. A Saudi delegation came to Kabul a while ago to study the labor capabilities of Afghanistan.
Taliban delegation in Iran
I know nothing about it. I don’t know who those Taliban who came to Iran are and if they really talked about the question of the Afghan refugees, or it is just a media gossip.
All in all, I don’t know whether those who were in Iran were really the Taliban or those who previously cooperated with the Taliban. I suppose they were members of the group when the Taliban were in power.
The reason behind their trip to Iran – whether they wanted to talk about the refugees or peace, or they were trying to seek asylum in Iran – is still unclear. I cannot comment on that.