2013 UNHCR country operations profile - Islamic Republic of Iran
The Islamic Republic of Iran continues to host one of the largest refugee populations in the world. As of December 2011, according to the Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants' Affairs (BAFIA), the total number of refugees registered with the authorities stood at some 882,700, including some 840,200 Afghans and 42,500 Iraqis. Close to 3,500 Iraqi refugees registered with UNHCR are awaiting a decision from the authorities on their legal status. Most refugees in the Islamic Republic of Iran reside in urban areas, with only 3 per cent living in settlements.
Between January 2002 and July 2012, UNHCR assisted some 902,000 Afghan refugees to return home voluntarily. Some 28,000 Iraqi refugees have also been assisted to return home since 2003. In May 2012, an international stakeholders' conference endorsed the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees presented by the Islamic Republics of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, and facilitated by UNHCR.
In 2013, the UNHCR programme in the Islamic Republic of Iran will have two goals: to support voluntary repatriation and to enhance refugees' self-reliance in preparation for sustainable return to their country of origin or resettlement in a third country.
There have been positive developments in the Islamic Republic of Iran. These include the decision to issue work permits to refugee women, the de-linking of payment for work permit fees from re-registration of refugee cards, extension of a health insurance scheme for refugees, and permission for refugee girls admitted to universities to obtain student visas within the country.
Pursuant to an initiative proposed by BAFIA, some Afghan refugees have begun exchanging their refugee cards for passports and residence permits. UNHCR is working closely with the authorities to ensure that protection safeguards are upheld during the process.
The global economic downturn and the removal of subsidies in the Islamic Republic of Iran have led to a significant rise in the cost of medicine, health care, education and other social services. Inflation has been boosted by multiple increases in fuel and energy costs. Based on the vulnerability assessment/registration undertaken by the Government in the context of the refugee re-registration exercise in 2011, it is estimated that some 200,000 Afghan refugees are in urgent need of additional assistance in urban areas.
Some of these vulnerable refugees will also require food assistance. At present, WFP food distribution is limited to refugee settlements. Inadequate financial support has left gaps in health care as State resources are overstretched. Moreover, refugees' lack of access to full medical insurance makes them vulnerable in case of ill-health.
Government statistics indicate that some 300,000 refugees are working in the construction, agriculture and production sectors. This is a source of concern for both the Government and Iranian citizens in view of the high unemployment rate within the country.
All existing settlements need repairs to their health, education, water and sanitation infrastructure. Recent UNHCR monitoring missions have revealed that the school enrolment rate in the settlements is generally lower than that among refugees residing outside them.
Solutions are needed for some 82,000 Afghan refugees with specific needs, including women and children at risk of violence and/or survivors of violence, unaccompanied and separated children, and refugees with mental, physical and genetic disabilities.
Although some Afghan refugees in the Islamic Republic of Iran perceive the socio-economic conditions inside Afghanistan as being very poor and unsafe, nonetheless UNHCR will continue provide country of origin information updates and provide assistance to those considering and opting for voluntary return.
|UNHCR 2013 planning figures for the Islamic Republic of Iran|
|TYPE OF POPULATION||ORIGIN||JAN 2013||DEC 2013|
|TOTAL IN COUNTRY||OF WHOM ASSISTED
|TOTAL IN COUNTRY||OF WHOM ASSISTED
Main objectives and targets for 2013
Basic needs and essential services
The health status of the refugee population is improved.
About 300,000 registered refugees have access to free primary health care.
At least 80 per cent of the refugee population benefits from health insurance covering secondary and tertiary treatments.
The medical referral system is maintained.
The population of concern has optimal access to education.
Adult education is provided for 3,000 refugees.
Five educational facilities are constructed.
More than 280,000 registered refugees have access to primary and secondary education.
Community empowerment and self-reliance
Self-reliance and livelihoods are improved.
Access to self-employment and small-business opportunities is facilitated for 5,000 refugees.
Entrepreneurship and business training is provided for 5,000 refugees.
The potential for voluntary return is realized.
Cash grants are given to 15,000 refugees opting to return home.
A minimum of four cross-border meetings are held in support of returns to Afghanistan and Iraq.
All vulnerable refugees assisted by UNHCR to repatriate benefit from health screening.
The potential for resettlement is realized.
Some 5,000 refugees are resettled.
Strategy and activities in 2013
The primary goal of UNHCR in the Islamic Republic of Iran is to implement durable solutions for registered refugees through voluntary repatriation, resettlement and sustainable reintegration.
This will be achieved by: facilitating and enhancing voluntary repatriation and assisting sustainable reintegration in returnee areas; enhancing resettlement; empowering refugees to return through improved access to education and health care; and diversifying livelihood training and opportunities.
Although UNHCR will advocate with the Government to maintain a legal framework for the continued stay of Afghan and Iraqi refugees, voluntary repatriation remains the preferred solution for these groups. UNHCR will try to increase cash grants to each family, without limits on the number of family members. In collaboration with the Governments of the Islamic Republics of Afghanistan and Iran, UNHCR will evaluate the conditions in regions of return in Afghanistan and support interventions in the areas of water, electricity, access to roads, shelter, health, education and access to diversified livelihood opportunities, with a focus on food security.
UNHCR will continue advocating for the contact group of concerned Governments to offer larger resettlement quotas, emphasizing the urgent needs of female-headed households and vulnerable groups, including refugees with chronic medical conditions.
Projects focused on building human capital will empower refugees to contribute to rebuilding Afghanistan and facilitate their reintegration. The projects will address assistance gaps in the sectors of education, health and livelihoods both in Afghanistan and in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Vocational, professional and trading courses will be provided to refugees. These courses will take into consideration labour market needs inside Afghanistan. Training will be complemented by micro-projects for refugee graduates. These will provide the graduates with the necessary capital to practice a trade and new skills that can be used upon their return to Afghanistan.
Refugees are especially hard hit by the deteriorating economic situation inside the country, as they remain unprotected by social safety nets. The economy continues to suffer from hyper-inflation, substantially increasing operating costs.
Organization and implementation
As the main counterpart of UNHCR in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants' Affairs has the overall responsibility for coordinating refugee affairs in the areas of protection, health, education, yearly re-registration, issuance of travel permits, management of refugee settlements and coordination with governmental departments.
The Government, UN agencies and NGOs have bilateral and tripartite cooperation agreements with UNHCR for the provision of direct and indirect assistance to refugees in a number of specific areas. The Ministry of Health has been the main counterpart for primary health care services and access to government health care facilities. The Ministry of Education is the main entity responsible for the education of refugee children and literacy training courses for adults and out-of-school refugees. UNHCR has cooperation agreements with the Technical and Vocational Training Organization, while the International World Relief Foundation is empowering refugee women through training courses and support for home-based microbusinesses.
The 2013 budget of USD 59.6 million shows a 12 per cent increase over that of 2012, mainly attributable to the overall increase in the cost of operating in the Islamic Republic of Iran, due to rising prices for basic goods and services.
Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2013 Update