South-West Asia

Operational information on the South-West Asia subregion is presented below. A summary of this can also be downloaded in PDF format.​ This subregion covers the following countries:

Subregion: South-West Asia


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  • 2019

Budgets and Expenditure in Subregion South-West Asia

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2018 {"categories":[2013,2014,2015,2016,2017,2018],"budget":[352.31783695,382.93488602,360.170297977,473.351600748,361.946634964,323.79242552],"expenditure":[162.67279337,158.90284611,156.55047551,288.75944655,158.34583653,126.61838953]} {"categories":[2013,2014,2015,2016,2017,2018],"p1":[157.79026509,184.60069642,198.064954557,332.70868251,240.902367764,203.31027494],"p2":[1.48910797,0.21242026,0.30424051,0.23462954,0.235,0.599],"p3":[125.47048328,120.93371852,106.53871565,92.349152539,98.82267524,89.22617932],"p4":[67.56798061,77.18805082,55.26238726,48.059136159,21.98659196,30.65697126]} {"categories":[2013,2014,2015,2016,2017,2018],"p1":[87.25259129,88.79105311,92.11479018,242.52296085,111.9619952,71.34104447],"p2":[0.0786895,0.18566753,0.2060976,0.15099556,0.13975851,0.11294748],"p3":[44.24040328,34.24658594,36.57175741,29.0479299,27.88620197,33.67393502],"p4":[31.1011093,35.67953953,27.65783032,17.03756024,18.35788085,21.49046256]}
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People of Concern - 2018

[["Refugees",2455685],["Asylum-seekers",5499],["IDPs",2203277],["Returned IDPs",156981],["Returned refugees",16240],["Others of concern",489854]]
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Response in 2018

Close to forty years since the beginning of large-scale displacement, Afghans remained the largest refugee population of concern to UNHCR in Asia and the Pacific, as well as the most protracted refugee situation in the region.

2018 witnessed the lowest number of returns in many years, with 15,699 registered Afghan refugees who returned under UNHCR’s facilitated voluntary repatriation programme, a decrease by 73% compared to 2017, due in part to a challenging security environment, incipient political transitions and uncertainty regarding ongoing peace processes.

Within Afghanistan, more than 270,000 people were newly displaced due to conflict in 2018, with 31 out of 34 provinces affected by conflict. A severe drought also generated additional displacement of over 230,000 people, whom UNHCR assisted by providing 15,100 family tents as part of the Humanitarian Country Team response.

In a positive development, the Government of Afghanistan committed in July 2018 to the roll out of the comprehensive refugee response framework (CRRF) as a country of origin. This provides an opportunity to showcase good practices based on experiences gained in implementing the “Solutions Strategy for Afghan refugees” (SSAR), notably in relation to the inclusion of returnees in Afghanistan’s national policies and priorities, as well as to garner further support for reintegration. Designed as a regional multi-year initiative, the SSAR offers a comprehensive and integrated framework for joint interventions aimed at facilitating voluntary return and sustainable reintegration, while at the same time providing assistance to refugees, host communities and host countries.

Parliamentary elections took place in October 2018 and the presidential election is scheduled for September 2019. Diplomatic efforts aimed at peace talks with militant groups have accelerated in recent months.

The Geneva Conference on Afghanistan held in November 2018, co-hosted by the Government of Afghanistan and the United Nations, provided an opportunity to assess progress and reconfirm commitments made since the “transformation decade” (2015-2024) was announced.

UNHCR has been working to support the Government of Afghanistan in translating the Displacement and Return Executive Committee (DiREC) action plan into priority development and humanitarian actions in 15 Priority Areas of Return and Reintegration.

The vast majority of Afghan refugees continue to be generously hosted by the neighbouring Islamic Republics of Pakistan (1.4 million) and Iran (950,000).

In Pakistan, UNHCR continued to support the government in the implementation of various aspects of its “Comprehensive policy on voluntary repatriation and management of Afghan nationals, approved in 2017,” which includes i) the continued extension of “proof of registration” (PoR) cards (currently valid until the end of June 2019); ii) the implementation of a flexible visa regime for PoR card holders, who would be able to obtain Afghan passports and Pakistani visas in Pakistan and iii) the registration of close to 880,000 undocumented Afghans who have been given an “Afghan citizen card”.

The Refugee Affected and Hosting Areas (RAHA) initiative, now in its 10th year, plays a major role in fostering social cohesion between refugees and the Pakistani communities that host them. In 2018, 20 projects were implemented under RAHA across four provinces of Pakistan in the sectors of health, education, livelihoods, water and community infrastructure.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has demonstrated its commitment to maintaining inclusive policies towards refugees by providing them with access to health care, education and livelihood opportunities, in line with the main objectives of the SSAR for 2018-2019. Health insurance policies have been made available to refugees since 2015, and in 2018 alone the scheme provided assistance to 92,000 vulnerable refugees, including for pre-existing medical cases. UNHCR and the Government provided funding for the construction of schools, benefiting both refugees and host communities. Close to 500,000 refugees and undocumented Afghans have had access to education as a result of these efforts. Children enjoyed unhindered access to Iranian public schools, notwithstanding infrastructure challenges that need to be addressed. UNHCR supported BAFIA’s efforts in shelter renovation and maintenance in extremely poor areas, in addition to implementing projects related to potable water, sanitation facilities, waste disposal systems and energy. Rehabilitation of infrastructure in communities hosting Afghan refugees remains one of the important aspects requiring attention for the improved well-being of refugees in the Islamic Republic of Iran. 

Operational Environment

Afghans remain the largest refugee population of concern to UNHCR in Asia and the Pacific region. There are more than 2.2 million Afghan refugees worldwide, the vast majority of which are hosted in the Islamic Republic of Iran and Pakistan.  Both countries have provided protection and assistance to Afghan refugees for almost four decades. 
The volatile security situation in Afghanistan continues to drive displacement, with more than 200,000 people forced to flee their homes in the first eight months of 2017, adding to the estimated up to 1.8 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in Afghanistan in 2016.
Given the ongoing conflict in the country and its limited absorption capacity, UNHCR does not promote refugee returns to Afghanistan.  However, in accordance with its mandate, the Office assists those who choose to return.  Over 55,000 refugees have returned to Afghanistan since the beginning of 2017, of whom half are not returning to their places of origin. In 2018, UNHCR is expecting that 200,000 individuals would return to Afghanistan, mainly from Pakistan.
IDPs are also assisted along with returning refugees.
UNHCR continues to provide emergency assistance to those who are newly displaced.  UNHCR will also assist some 40,000 families to prepare for winter 2017-2018.  Protection monitoring on the ground will identify vulnerable returnees, IDPs and other Afghan population and provide individualised support – cash based interventions or referral - through the person with specific needs programme (PSN) or livelihood opportunities through community-based protection measures.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has taken important steps towards inclusion of the refugee populations with the introduction of a series of progressive policies to incorporate refugees into national services, especially in the areas of health and education. The Government continues to expand refugees’ access to healthcare through the Universal Public Health Insurance scheme (UPHI) supported by UNHCR.  To date some 125,701 refugees were registered in the national insurance scheme, giving them access to medical services country wide.    Following the Supreme Leader’s Decree in 2015 more than 420,000 Afghan and Iraqi children, including 72,000 undocumented children, have been enrolled in school. Implementation of the progressive policies of Iran requires substantial investments and ongoing resources, and greater responsibility sharing and support from the international community will be required to complement the already vast investments of the Government.
In Pakistan, the Government adopted a comprehensive policy on the voluntary repatriation and management of Afghan refugees in February 2017, extending the validity of Proof of Registration (PoR) cards until the end of 2017.  The policy foresees the adoption of a draft refugee law and  flexible visa regime for different categories of Afghans (e.g. students, mixed marriage, business, skilled and unskilled labourers).  In line with this policy, the Government also launched a six month programme in July 2017 to register undocumented Afghans.  UNHCR welcomes this initiative and is working with the government on its implementation. 
UNHCR will strengthen its partnerships with the World Bank to ease the pressure on the refugee hosting communities. Its loan and grant components are to support the government and communities directly and to supplement UNHCR’s ongoing activities.
UNHCR and its partners are also planning for the return of people who were displaced from North Waziristan in Pakistan in 2014 and remained in Afghanistan. 

2018 Budget and Expenditure in South-West Asia | USD

Operation Pillar 1
Refugee programme
Pillar 2
Stateless programme
Pillar 3
Reintegration projects
Pillar 4
IDP projects
Afghanistan Budget
Islamic Republic of Iran Budget
Pakistan Budget
Total Budget

2018 Voluntary Contributions to South-West Asia | USD

Earmarking / Donor Pillar 1
Refugee programme
Pillar 3
Reintegration projects
Pillar 4
IDP projects
South-West Asia overall
Japan 000941,708 941,708
United States of America 00061,600,000 61,600,000
South-West Asia overall subtotal 00062,541,708 62,541,708
Australia 0001,512,859 1,512,859
Canada 0001,099,764 1,099,764
Common Humanitarian Fund Sudan 008,758,8440 8,758,844
Denmark 0003,503,185 3,503,185
European Union 0003,636,322 3,636,322
France 0200,00000 200,000
Germany 0004,744,386 4,744,386
Italy 1,860,870623,60200 2,484,472
Japan 614,800321,00064,2000 1,000,000
Luxembourg 000523,013 523,013
Norway 0005,958,474 5,958,474
Private donors in Austria 017700 177
Private donors in Japan 00148,1250 148,125
Republic of Korea 0003,000,000 3,000,000
Switzerland 0508,13000 508,130
United States of America 026,75000 26,750
Afghanistan subtotal 2,475,6701,679,6598,971,16923,978,003 37,104,501
Islamic Republic of Iran
Australia 1,000,000000 1,000,000
Denmark 2,229,299000 2,229,299
European Union 4,260,130000 4,260,130
Germany 2,171,553000 2,171,553
Japan 1,300,000000 1,300,000
Luxembourg 261,506000 261,506
Norway 000510,921 510,921
Private donors in Japan 594,614000 594,614
Private donors in Qatar 1,103,823000 1,103,823
Republic of Korea 2,000,000000 2,000,000
Russian Federation 100,000000 100,000
UNAIDS 00050,650 50,650
Islamic Republic of Iran subtotal 15,020,92500561,571 15,582,496
Australia 0001,512,859 1,512,859
Canada 0001,571,092 1,571,092
Denmark 2,079,299200,00000 2,279,299
European Union 1,111,111001,324,066 2,435,177
Germany 743,014000 743,014
Italy 552,373750,94400 1,303,317
Japan 845,234000 845,234
Luxembourg 000261,506 261,506
Norway 0001,021,842 1,021,842
Private donors in Italy 00028 28
Private donors in Japan 604,049000 604,049
Private donors in Qatar 1,302,907000 1,302,907
Private donors in the Republic of Korea 5,654000 5,654
Private donors in the United States of America 298,200000 298,200
Switzerland 508,130000 508,130
United States of America 53,500000 53,500
Pakistan subtotal 8,103,471950,94405,691,394 14,745,809
Total 25,600,0662,630,6038,971,16992,772,676 129,974,514
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