Islamic Republic of Iran


Operation: Opération: Islamic Republic of Iran



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Key Figures

2018 year-end results
498,000 children, out of which 103,000 are undocumented children, were enrolled in public primary and secondary schools
92,000 vulnerable refugees were enrolled in the Universal Public Health Insurance scheme and benefited from universal health coverage   
10,350 people with specific needs received support
2,400 over-aged students (children and adult refugees) benefitted from literacy classes
21 community-based projects were implemented/initiated
8 schools for refugee and host community children were constructed
2019 planning figures
95% of people of concern have access to secondary and tertiary health care 
1,000 people of concern will be facilitated for their departure for resettlement
805 Afghan refugees will be provided with entrepreneurship/ business training
25 schools will be built to enhance the capacity of the national education system and facilitate the access of additional 9,000 refugee and host community children to education
20 projects benefiting local and displaced communities will be implemented to enhance community engagement and resilience

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Decrease in
2018 979,476
2017 979,525
2016 979,537


[["Refugees",979435],["Asylum-seekers",33],["Returned refugees",8]]
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Islamic Republic of Iran

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2018 {"categories":[2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019],"budget":[68.48044209,72.823781737,76.76538033,97.24654417,98.75662219,98.91670641],"expenditure":[30.14519856,21.93132368,36.211779,35.12314787,27.87564296,null]} {"categories":[2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019],"p1":[68.48044209,72.823781737,76.76538033,97.24654417,98.75662219,98.91670641],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]} {"categories":[2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019],"p1":[30.14519856,21.93132368,36.211779,35.12314787,27.87564296,null],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]}
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  • 2014
  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019

Operational environment

The Islamic Republic of Iran remains the second largest host country of Afghan refugees, and the fifth largest refugee hosting country worldwide. In spite of the socio-economic challenges Iran has continued to face, it has generously hosted a large population of refugees for four decades. UNHCR continued its close partnership with the Government to ensure a sustainable protection environment for refugees, through inclusive government policies in the areas of health, education, and livelihoods.  These efforts continued to be pursued within the framework of the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR), which   is the principal refugee policy framework in the region.  

In partnership with relevant Government counterparts, all refugees continued to have access to the Universal Public Health Insurance (UPHI), on par with the health insurance package available to nationals.  92,000 vulnerable refugees received free health insurance coverage, and benefitted from fully subsidized health insurance premiums to which UNHCR contributed. Furthermore, some 11,950 refugees enrolled by paying the premium themselves. Refugees enrolled in the insurance scheme benefited from services in public hospitals countrywide.

In addition, with Government and partners, UNHCR implemented key interventions to support people with specific needs, increased access to livelihoods, and provided multi-purpose cash grants to the most vulnerable refugees.

Voluntary repatriation remained low. Factors contributing to low returns numbers included continuing insecurity, incipient political transitions and uncertainty regarding ongoing peace processes in Afghanistan. Though the rate of return remained low over the last year, a slight increase of return of Afghan refugees was observed . In 2018, 1,970 Afghans and 12 Iraqis opted for voluntary repatriation compared to 1197 Afghans and 21 Iraqis in 2017.

The resettlement quota was reduced drastically in 2018. Those cases who were submitted for resettlement consideration comprised 658 people, with 263 refugees departing for resettlement.
In the spirit of the Global Compact on Refugees, the Government has been calling for equitable and predictable responsibility and burden sharing, having hosted a very large refugee population in a protracted environment for over four decades.  UNHCR has worked jointly with the Government and the broader international community to garner stronger international support for refugees in this regard.

Population trends

The Islamic Republic of Iran hosts some 951,140 Afghan refugees (Amayesh card holders), 26,270 Iraqi refugees and 25 refugees from diverse countries. The majority of refugees, 97%, live in urban areas while 3% reside in 20 state-managed refugee settlements. Furthermore, there are approximately 450,000 Afghan nationals in Iran who hold Afghan passports with Iranian visas. The Government estimated that approximately 1.5 to 2 million undocumented Afghans also reside in the country. The thirteenth round of Amayesh registration was completed in 2018. Anothersignificant development was a headcount exercise of 850,000 undocumented Afghans, which was conducted in 2017 was a first step towards status regularization. UNHCR stands ready to support the Government in this effort.

Key achievements

With UNHCR support, refugees continued to have improved access to national services, including but not limited to country-wide primary and secondary education within the national system, as well as Primary Health Care and improved access to the national health insurance system. In addition, outreach to refugees was enhanced through increased community engagement. 
Other achievements include the enhancement of UNHCR’s case management procedures (with a strong focus on women and children, amongst others through the roll-out of Best Interests Procedures). Some 16,500 Afghan refugees benefited from harm-reduction, SGBV prevention, or community-based rehabilitation activities implemented by partners.

Some 8,170 Afghan refugees benefited from legal aid through 16 Dispute Settlement Committees and UNHCR-hired lawyers. UNHCR also engaged with national actors, including lawyers and other interlocutors, to enhance protection for refugees. Following the Supreme Leader’s 2015 decree, undocumented Afghan children continued to be registered at national public schools.

Unmet needs

Against  a backdrop of  increased needs due to  the current economic situation, UNHCR’s financial resources available last year allowed support for the construction of only 8 schools against a planned 25 schools (OP), while the needs identified by the Government to accommodate Afghan children (refugees and undocumented) in safe learning spaces remained significantly higher. As a result, it is estimated that thousands of children were either unable to access schooling or to benefit from a safe school environment. In addition, close to 4,000 people of concern could not enrol in literacy classes, many of whom were out-of-school children or over-age children requiring education.

Over 3,000 refugees could not benefit from vocational training opportunities and/or employment and income generation opportunities offered through partners. This may have impacted their basic living standards and increased the risk of engaging in negative coping mechanisms.

SGBV and child protection activities could not be expanded, mainly due to limited resources.  

Working environment

The Islamic Republic of Iran is host to one of the largest and most protracted urban refugee populations worldwide. More than 3 million Afghans, including registered refugees, passport holders and undocumented, reside in Iran. The Government is responsible for registering refugees and issuing identity cards (Amayesh). Approximately 97 per cent of the registered refugees live in urban areas while 3 per cent reside in 20 settlements. UNHCR assists the registered Amayesh cardholders. In addition to registered refugees, according to the Government’s estimation, Iran hosts around 620,000 Afghans who hold Afghan passports and Iranian visas, and more than 1 million undocumented Afghans. A countrywide exercise to identify the undocumented took place in 2017. It initially targeted only Afghans but was extended to Iraqis after a few months. According to the Government more than 800,000 undocumented foreign nationals were identified during the headcount by mid-September 2017.
The Islamic Republic of Iran opened access to all refugees into the Universal Public Health Insurance (UPHI) that provides refugees with health insurance services similar to that of Iranian nationals. To date, more than 110,000 extremely vulnerable refugees have enrolled in the third cycle of UPHI scheme (providing coverage for 12 months. Undocumented Afghan children are now allowed to access formal education. More than 420,000 refugee children are enrolled in primary and secondary school, out of which over 72,000 are undocumented Afghan children.
Voluntary repatriation has continued to decrease as the situation in Afghanistan deteriorates further, as a result, only 930 refugees voluntarily repatriated in the period between January and September 2017. In this context, resettlement remains an important durable solution. However, resettlement quotas have been on the decline over the past few years, and UNHCR was offered to resettle less than 240 individuals in 2017. Concerted efforts will be made to increase available resettlement quotas for Iran, as well as to engage in the alternative pathways to third country solutions.  
The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to play an active role in the process of ‘Solutions Strategy for Afghan refugees to support voluntary repatriation, sustainable reintegration and assistance to host countries’. BAFIA has the overall responsibility of coordinating refugee affairs in coordination with other line ministries, such as the Ministries of Health and Education. UNHCR will continue to work closely with other UN agencies and its NGO partners, including through leading thematic working groups. UNHCR and partners remain engaged in interagency contingency planning preparedness under UNHCR’s leadership.

Key priorities

In 2018, UNHCR will focus on:
  • Ensuring that the asylum space is expanded to all refugees. Focus will be on issues relating to access to asylum, registration and documentation;
  • Supporting the Government to expand the school infrastructure to enrol and provide access to refugees, undocumented and local children;
  • Supporting the Government efforts to continue extending UPHI to identified extremely vulnerable refugees along the line of the 6th National Development strategy;
  • Supporting refugees to have access to diversified livelihoods opportunities.
  • Addressing the immediate needs of vulnerable refugees by providing cash support;
  • Engaging with the refugee communities to build on resilience opportunities, i.e. through community based/led activities.
Latest contributions
  • 17-JUL-2019
  • 16-JUL-2019
  • 11-JUL-2019
  • 10-JUL-2019
  • 08-JUL-2019
    European Union
  • Kuwait
  • 05-JUL-2019
  • 04-JUL-2019

    private donors

  • European Union
  • Japan
  • 03-JUL-2019
  • 02-JUL-2019
  • 30-JUN-2019

    private donors

  • Argentina
  • Sweden

    private donors

  • Spain
  • Oman

    private donors

  • United Arab Emirates

    private donors

  • Kuwait

    private donors

  • Saudi Arabia

    private donors