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UNHCR Global Appeal 1999 - Iran


UNHCR Global Appeal 1999 - Iran

1 December 1998

Basic Facts

What we do

Ensure the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers are respected by the Government; promote adherence to the principles of international refugee law; and facilitate voluntary repatriation.

Who we help

1.4 million Afghan refugees and 570,000 Iraqi refugees.

Our requirements

US$ 17,943,439

Our offices

Teheran, Mashad, Zahedan, Orumiyeh, Ahwaz, Kermanshah, Dogharoon, Milak.

Our partners

The Ministry of Health, The Ministry of Interior (Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrant Affairs), The Ministry of Education and Training (Bureau for International and Scientific Cooperation).


The Islamic Republic of Iran hosts the world's largest refugee population. According to official government figures, some 2 million persons have taken refuge in the Islamic Republic of Iran, including 1.4 million Afghans and approximately 570,000 Iraqis. Only a small portion of the refugee population lives in camps (62,000 Iraqis and 25,000 Afghans); the rest are scattered throughout the country, largely in provinces bordering Afghanistan or Iraq.


The Ministry of Interior continues to be the main UNHCR partner responsible for conducting camp-based activities; the Ministries of Health and Education also run increasing numbers of programmes directly. UNHCR complements government efforts in the health, education, water, sanitation, shelter, community services and income-generation sectors in the camps.

Since 1997, there has been a gradual shift from care and maintenance assistance to programmes which foster self reliance. Vocational-training programmes in the camps contribute to this new approach. Dispersed refugee populations benefit from improved health, water and sanitation programmes as funding is reallocated from the camps to urban and rural areas with high concentrations of refugees. Health services, available through Medical Referral Units established in 1995, provide vital medical treatment at low or no cost to vulnerable refugees who require life-saving care.

During 1999, UNHCR will work with relevant government authorities to allow NGOs to become involved in health, community-service and income generation activities on behalf of UNHCR. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) provides transportation to returnees under both Afghan and Iraqi repatriation programmes; and the World Food Programme (WFP) provides basic food rations to refugees in camps and the wheat component of the repatriation package.

Protection and Solutions

Since the Iranian Government provides the bulk of assistance to refugees, UNHCR's activities in Iran are primarily protection oriented. The agency facilitates the repatriation of Afghan and Iraqi Kurd refugees by providing repatriation packages and transportation within Iran. Reintegration programmes are also implemented in the areas of return. As part of its protection efforts in the Islamic Republic of Iran, UNHCR promotes refugee law through seminars, has established a Refugee Law Course at Tehran University, conducts comparative research on Islamic principles and refugee law, translates important documents for distribution to Iranian counterparts, and keeps in close touch with human rights organizations. UNHCR is taking advantage of the changes in the Iranian administration to pursue discussions on: status determination procedures for new arrivals; regularization of those considered to be "illegal aliens" identification of persons in need of international protection; standardization of refugee documentation; and measures to stop deportations of persons whose life and security would be threatened.


Prior to 1992, newly-arrived asylum-seekers and refugees were permitted to work and, to some degree, integrate into Iranian society. But the economic crisis plaguing the country since 1992 has led to negative perceptions of post-1992 asylum-seekers and restrictions on their presence in the country. With few exceptions, those arriving since 1992 have been unable to obtain the necessary documentation for residence and are thus considered "illegal aliens" by the Government. Consequently, asylum-seekers are being refouled despite the Islamic Republic of Iran's status as an asylum country and a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention.

With an estimated 95 per cent of the entire refugee population dispersed in the wider community, UNHCR's task of ensuring their protection is an extremely difficult one. UNHCR's visits to refugees camps must be coordinated with the Government, and the scattered nature of the population throughout the country in urban areas limits UNHCR's ability to access the refugees and carry out its protection mandate.

Budget US$

ActivitiesGeneral ProgrammesSpecial Programmes
Domestic Needs/Household Support208,510729,300
Water Supply237,7734,666
Shelter/Other Infrastructures1,755,99220,213
Community Services516,842
Legal Assistance/Protection189,000850,510
Agency Operational Support955,447461,830
Programme Delivery Costs*1,803,6001,627,143
Administrative Support414,00043,096
TOTAL GP + SP17,943,439