The United Nations has praised Iran for generously hosting millions of violence-stricken asylum seekers and refugees, particularly those from neighboring Afghanistan.
Iran “has been exemplary in hosting refugees and keeping borders open,” said Sivanka Dhanapala, head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office in Tehran, on Thursday.
The UN official further hailed a 2015 decree by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, which called on education administrators to allow all Afghan children -- documented or not -- to attend Iranian schools.
The directive prompted Iranian officials to build 15,000 new classrooms across the country to accommodate refugee children in the country, which, according to UN estimates, has the world’s fourth largest refugee population.
“We’ve also worked with the government on incorporating refugees into a government-sponsored health insurance scheme which is a ground-breaking development not just for Iran but globally for refugees,” Dhanapala said.
“In a world where you have multiple bad stories about hosting refugees, I think Iran is really a good news story,” said the official, adding, “It’s a story that’s not told often enough.”
Iran has been giving refuge to about a million registered Afghan migrants and another two million unregistered ones for almost four decades, according to the estimates.
More than 350,000 Afghan refugee children are now in school in Iran while some 48,000 undocumented Afghan children were allowed last year to enroll for the first time in Iranian public schools.
In January, Ahmad Mohammadi-Far, the managing director of Iranian Interior Ministry’s Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants (BAFIA), said 60 percent of refugees in the country have received proper education.
Samad Haj Jabbari, the director general for non-Iranian university students at the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology, also said that 24,000 foreign students are currently studying at Iranian universities.
In an address to the UN General Assembly’s first-ever summit for Refugees and Migrants in September 2016, Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli pointed to a massive influx of refugees from the neighboring countries of Afghanistan and Iraq and said the Islamic Republic has been hosting a huge population of refugees for many years, a move that has put Iran “among the lead countries in the history of humanitarian assistance.”
Trump’s ironical ban on Iranians
Even the NGOs critical of Iran all agree that the Islamic Republic, which is facing economic hardship due to Western sanctions, deserves far more credit for its efforts in comparison to rich Western countries which have offered little or nothing to the hapless refugees fleeing war and persecution.
However, despite its tireless efforts to support the refugees on its soil, Iran, along with five other Muslim-majority nations, has recently become the target of a travel ban by the administration of US President Donald Trump.
The Muslim ban was, however, blocked by a federal court on Wednesday, with a judge warning of a strong likelihood the measure would cause “irreparable injury” should it go ahead.
The executive order would have a particularly tough impact on the one million Iranians living and studying in the US as well as their families, if it takes effect.
The executive order has been harshly criticized by foreign NGOs, which have highlighted the irony that the ban has been slapped on Iran while the Islamic Republic is dealing with huge numbers of people fleeing the violence in Afghanistan fueled by a US-led invasion of the country.