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Iran Factsheet (Last updated 24/10/2018)

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951 142 documented Afghan refugees (UNHCR)

2 million undocumented refugees (Iranian Bureau for Alien and Foreign Immigrant Affairs/BAFIA)

EU humanitarian aid: Close to €51 million since 1997


Four decades of conflict in Afghanistan have led to massive displacement of Afghans into the neighbouring countries. Iran alone has received around three million Afghan refugees. Close to one million have been registered by the Iranian government; they are therefore afforded protection and are eligible for assistance. However, up to two million displaced Afghans remain undocumented and have neither formal legal status nor access to assistance. Up to 800 000 of them are considered to be extremely vulnerable.

What are the needs?

The majority of Afghan refugees reside among host communities, whereas less than 3% are hosted in 18 refugee settlements. Without legal status, undocumented Afghan refugees live under the permanent threat of deportation and have difficulty accessing basic services such as health, education, and legal jobs. Registered refugees enjoy a higher degree of protection and have legal access to certain jobs and services. However, the current combined resources of the Iranian refugee agency (BAFIA) and international donors cannot subsidise access to health services for more than 10-20% of the most vulnerable registered refugees.

The Supreme Leader’s decree of May 2015 allowed all children in Iran, regardless of their legal status, to access formal education. In the 2017-2018 academic year, 420 000 Afghan children (103 000 of whom are undocumented) registered for primary and secondary school, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). However, even if education is free, there are still many barriers to access: undocumented children need to pay for an enrolment card and books, and overcome social and linguistic obstacles. Children often speak only Pashtun and are sometimes the breadwinners of their families. Having children in school affords undocumented families a certain protection from deportation, but it still does not improve their access to other basic services.