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Afghanistan situation: Emergency preparedness and response in Iran, 25 November 2021

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KEY HIGHLIGHTS

667,938 people have been internally displaced in Afghanistan in 2021. Of the internally displaced people, 21% are women and 59% are children.

Afghans continue to make their way to Iran informally through unofficial borders. UNHCR is aware of 22,722 Afghans who arrived in Iran from 1 January to 21 November, though the numbers are understood to be much higher. As of 22 November, out of the new arrivals approaching us directly, 1,603 families (consisting of 6,276 individuals), have been interviewed by UNHCR.

Official borders between Afghanistan and Iran remain closed for asylum seekers. UNHCR continues its advocacy for the Government to open borders and let in individuals in need of international protection.

POLITICAL, SECURITY & HUMANITARIAN SITUATION IN AFGHANISTAN

  • On 22 November, UNDP called for urgent action to support Afghanistan's banks, warning that a spike in people being unable to repay loans, combined with lower deposits and a cash liquidity crisis, could cause the financial system to collapse within months. Since the de facto Taliban government took office in Afghanistan, the abrupt withdrawal of most foreign development support in the country has put a severe strain on the banking system.

  • On 17 November, the World Food Program (WFP) stated that 22.8 million Afghans – half of the population – will face acute food insecurity from November 2021, including 8.7 million at risk of famine-like conditions. This is the highest number of acutely food insecure people ever recorded in Afghanistan and is among the highest levels of acute food insecurity worldwide. WFP also reported that the situation for children is increasingly alarming, with half of all children under five (3.2 million) are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition. The UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, has warned that the country “is on the brink of catastrophe”.

DISPLACEMENT TO IRAN

  • Since the beginning of the year, UNHCR identified 22,722 Afghans who newly arrived in Iran (who approached UNHCR receptions through 5,629 heads of households). As of 22 November, out of the new arrivals who directly approached UNHCR, 1,603 families (consisting of 6,276 individuals), have been interviewed by UNHCR.

    • 30% are women, 27% are men and 44% are children - 25% (more than 1,500) of children are girls under the age of 18.
    • Half of the population who conducted interviews with UNHCR reside in Tehran province, followed by Khorasan Razavi province (20%) and Isfahan province (12%). Tehran is also the top drop-off province for new arrivals following their border crossings.
  • On 21 November, a member of the Iranian Parliament's National Security Commission, Jalil Rahimi Jahanabadi, called for the international community to fulfil its duty towards Afghan refugees and for the establishment of a regional task force to help them. “Iran is one of the main destinations of Afghan refugees and due to the U.S. pressure and sanctions, we have no more capability to admit refugees”, he stated.

  • On 17 November, the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Iran to the UN, Majid Takht Ravanchi, warned that Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries should be assisted as they handle the influx of refugees. He highlighted that thousands of refugees have entered Iran since the U.S. withdrew its forces from Afghanistan and cautioned that the number could increase by thousands more as the winter approaches.

  • Different government officials, at various times and events, have unofficially stated that the number of new arrivals to Iran may range between 100,000-300,000. UNHCR continues to face challenges in monitoring arrivals and verifying figures, due to the absence of a centralized registration system and continued lack of comprehensive and sustained access to border areas.