Head of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, arrived in on Sunday Tehran, the first leg of his tour that will also take him to Pakistan and Afghanistan, reported the official Iranian news agency (IRNA).
During his stay in Iran, Lubbers will meet with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, Interior Minister Hojjatoleslam Abolvahed Mousavi Lari and a number of foreign ministry officials.
The UN's refugee agency chief will also inspect centers for location of foreign nationals in Tehran and the northeastern province of Khorassan as well as Afghan refugee camps in Khorassan province.
Meanwhile, Lubbers expressed the hope that during his stay in Iran, he would be able to review thoroughly the situation of refugees in order to contribute to the issue of lowering their numbers in Iranian and Pakistani camps.
He further said that establishment of a permanent peace in Afghanistan and cooperation of its neighboring countries will facilitate the lowering of Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan and thus contributing to the well-being of remaining refugees to be administered by the UNHCR.
A UNHCR spokesman told reporters in Geneva that Afghanistan is "currently facing perhaps the most disastrous humanitarian crisis in the entire world."
Pakistan and Iran are bearing a heavy part of the burden from the Afghan crisis, hosting some 4 million refugees, one third of the world's refugee population.
"In addition to the refugee situation in Iran and Pakistan, Mr. Lubbers will be taking a first-hand look at the ever-growing caseload of internally-displaced people inside Afghanistan, including at least half a million since last summer alone," spokesman Ron Redmond said.
According to Dennis McNamara, the UN's Special Coordinator for Internal Displacement, who just returned from Afghanistan, the concern was "to respond to the immediate basic needs of the displaced while ensuring assistance is also provided to the impoverished population who remain in their villages."
The spokesman also announced that Lubbers, who just concluded a trip to Germany and France, was organizing, in collaboration with the President of the French National Assembly, a parliament of refugees to be convened on 16 June.
"The parliament will include 577 refugees - equal to the number of French parliamentarians - and will adopt a text supporting the 1951 Refugee Convention, which marks its 50th anniversary this year," Redmond said, cited by the news service - Albawaba.com
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