Iran grants UNHCR access to Afghan nationals in immigration detention centres

Iran grants UNHCR access to Afghan nationals in immigration detention centres

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The Government of Iran has granted the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) access to Afghan detainees threatened with deportation, the agency announced in Geneva today.

"We'll now be in a position to identify genuine refugee cases who are at risk of being deported and, therefore, fulfil that key protection element in our mandate," UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski said at a press conference. Iran "has assured us that Afghans found to be holders of valid documents will be released unconditionally and that undocumented Afghans, considered by UNHCR to have a valid case for refugee status under the new screening programme, will be permitted to remain in Iran."

Iran’s Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants agreed on Wednesday to give UNHCR access to detention centres throughout the country. The bureau will also work with the UN refugee agency to establish a screening process to review asylum claims.

Philippe Lavanchy, who heads UNHCR's mission in Iran, called the agreement a "significant development."

More than 122,000 Afghans have returned home from Iran since the government and UNHCR launched a voluntary return programme in April.