0732 GMT January 20, 2022
The launch of a website for Integrated Management of Consular Services (MIKHAK) appears to be indicating the government’s seriousness in dealing with the affairs of Iranian expatriates and laying the ground for them to return home.
Three days after the June 18 presidential election, the president-elect held his first press conference in Tehran, but no reporters asked him about the new government’s approach to Iranian expatriates.
However, the issue was so crucial that President-elect Raeisi concluded the event by addressing it when he said: “We will prepare all the grounds needed for the return of Iranian expatriates.”
According to a report by the Office of Vice‑Presidency for Science and Technology, about 1.9 million Iranians lived abroad in 2020. A year earlier, the Secretariat of the High Council of Iranian Affairs Abroad (HCIAA) had announced that there were more than four million Iranians abroad.
The return of our compatriots to their homeland has been a mutual concern over the past few decades. On the one hand, governments signaled a desire for the expatriates’ return in order to use their financial, cultural and scientific capacities. On the other hand, Iranians living abroad yearned for a return to their motherland. However, political and legal issues have always prevented such a mutual demand from being fulfilled.
Vahid Jalalzadeh, chairman of Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, has recently highlighted the need for opening a window, unanimously supported by the Establishment, to handle the issue of Iranian expatriates. Now it seems that, after several attempts in the past, such a window is gradually emerging.
From the president and the Judiciary chief to the Foreign Ministry and Parliament, all are pressing for a solution to the existing problems in order to ease the return of our fellow countrymen to Iran.
A few days ago, President Raeisi stressed that “no one is banned from entering the country, and that all Iranians can come and go”.
Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has said that before he embarked on a trip to New York to attend the annual UN General Assembly meeting in September, the Judiciary chief advised him on the phone to assure Iranians in the US that they should have no worries about returning to Iran.
On January 1, the HCIAA held its first meeting under the Raeisi government at the Foreign Ministry, with the president in attendance, following an eight-year hiatus. The aim was to provide the necessary coordination to facilitate the return and travel of Iranian expatriates to the country and to explore how Iran can benefit from their investments.
The ministers of the interior, justice, economy, health and labor also attended the meeting.
The foreign minister has said that investment rules, as well as the services and facilities that Iranian expatriates can receive are being reviewed.
The launch of MIKHAK accessible at https://mikhak.mfa.gov.ir is the latest measure taken to give services to Iranians living abroad.
According to Amir-Abdollahian, all Iranian expats can enter their details and information on the MIKHAK website and enter their questions. He has asserted that the Foreign Ministry will answer their questions after inquiring from the Judiciary and other competent security organizations.
On MIKHAK’s homepage, visitors will find a brief description of the goals of the website.
“This website provides consular services to compatriots in various fields, including affairs related to passports and birth certificates, consular and judicial support affairs, power of attorney, document approval…,” part of the description reads.
Over the past years, what mainly hindered the process of facilitating the return of Iranian expats was certain misunderstandings and mutual mistrust. There have also been other factors such as the lack of comprehensive rules for compatriots abroad, economic instability, propaganda campaigns aimed at stoking Iranophobia, and disregard for the role of Iranian elites that made it even harder to begin the process.
In order to make new policies in this regard, some repulsive approaches of the past seem to be changing.
On September 15, the intelligence minister stressed the need for a change in the approach and behavior of Iran’s embassies and consulates with the Iranian community abroad.
*Ebrahim Beheshti is a guest contributor to Iran Daily.