Iran hopes to open up 1.8 million jobs for its citizens with the repatriation of the swarming refugee population, a top labor ministry official was quoted saying Friday.
"With the repatriation of foreign nationals, a major part of the existing unemployment problem for unskilled workers will be solved," Gholi Sheikhi said, cited by state news agency IRNA.
Iranian officials have increasingly put the blame for the nation's unemployment woes on what is the largest refugee population in the world — mostly Afghans but also large numbers from India, Iraq and Pakistan.
Under a voluntary program launched last April with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Iran has sent more than 165,000 people back to neighboring Afghanistan.
But some 1.4 million Afghans are still in the country, according to official statistics, and half of them are believed to be here illegally.
Their presence has been cited as a key reason for Iran's high unemployment, estimated unofficially at close to 30 percent. Sheikhi said full repatriation could lead to as many as 1.8 million jobs for Iranian nationals. — (AFP, Tehran)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)