Over 35 years of uninterrupted presence in Iran



The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established by the UN General Assembly in 1950. According to the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, the agency is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees.

UNHCR in Iran

The Islamic Republic of Iran continues to host one of the largest and most protracted refugee populations in the world, the majority of whom are Afghan refugees. According to the government estimates, 750,000 Afghan and 12,000 Iraqi refugees reside in Iran.

UNHCR opened its first office in Iran in 1984 and expanded its presence in response to the influx of Iraqi refugees arising from the Gulf War in 1991, and the start of Afghans’ mass return movement to Afghanistan in 1992. During these times of high influx, the refugee population in Iran had reached as high as nearly 5 million.

Since its establishment, UNHCR has maintained an uninterrupted field presence countrywide in coordination and cooperation with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

UNHCR’s central country office is based in Tehran along with Tehran’s field office. Three sub-offices are located in Mashhad, Kerman and Shiraz and two field units are located in both Esfahan and Dogharoun. UNHCR also has a presence in Persian Gulf Administrative Center of BAFIA in Tehran province to facilitate the voluntary return of refugees to their country of origin.

UNHCR’s main government counterpart in Iran is the Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants’ Affairs (BAFIA) of the Ministry of Interior. In addition, UNHCR collaborates with other government ministries and organizations as well as a number of local and international NGOs to ensure that all refugees are aware of their rights under the rules and regulations of the Islamic Republic of Iran and have access to basic assistance services.

Supporting the Government of Iran for rendering its services to refugees, UNHCR Iran remains focused on health, education and livelihoods of the refugees under the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR), a quadripartite multi-year regional strategy between UNHCR and the governments of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan launched in 2012.