UNHCR’s priority is to ensure that refugees make the choice to return to their country of origin in a voluntary and informed manner. Since 2002, UNHCR Iran has supported nearly 1 million refugees to return to Afghanistan. However, as the situation in Afghanistan remains fragile and unstable, only a small number of Afghan refugees in Iran has shown willingness and ability to return to their home country in a safe and durable manner.
In 2020, only 947 refugees chose to return to Afghanistan with UNHCR’s support – the lowest yearly number recorded. Of these, 29% are refugees who intend to return to Afghanistan to obtain a national passport with which to apply for a student visa and return to Iran. In 2020, no Iraqis returned home.
UNHCR facilitates voluntary repatriation mainly through UNHCR’s Dogharoun Field unit (Khorasan Razavi province).
Number of Refugees Voluntarily Repatriated (2011 – present):
Upon return to Afghanistan, returnees are assisted at four Encashment Centres (ECs) located in Herat, receiving a grant averaging USD 200 per person (based on their area of origin) to support their immediate humanitarian needs and transportation costs. In addition to cash grants, a range of inter-agency services are provided for returning refugees, including basic health and malnutrition screening and vaccination (by the Ministry of Public Health supported by WHO and UNICEF), mine risk awareness (by the Danish Demining Group supported by UNMAS), information on school enrolment (by the Ministry of Education supported by UNICEF), and overnight accommodation. UNHCR and the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation in Afghanistan, also conduct returnee monitoring and identify persons with specific needs, who are then referred to specialized service providers for assessment and assistance.
Every year, a number of undocumented Afghans also return to their country of origins in a spontaneous manner, without UNHCR’s support. The UN in Afghanistan reported that 859,000 undocumented Afghans spontaneously returned from Iran in 2020, an increase of almost 80% from 2019 levels. Although a sizeable number, these should be seen largely in the context of the circular nature of cross-border movements between Afghanistan and Iran, the lack of proper biometric registration in Afghanistan, lack of Afghan documentation and the impact of COVID-19 on economic opportunities in host countries.