Living conditions for Afghan refugees in Iran are decreasing

Report
from Danish Refugee Council
Published on 21 Mar 2013

The situation for Afghan refugees in Iran is worsening, due to international sanctions and donor reluctance. Danish Refugee Council remains committed to support the refugees. Iran is hosting one of the largest refugee populations in the world, with nearly 900.000 registered Afghan refugees.

It is becoming more and more difficult to obtain donor funding for operations in Iran at a time when poverty among Afghan refugees is on the rise. This is due to the international sanctions against Iran and other crises.

“DRC Iran remains nevertheless committed to continue to support Afghan refugees in Iran and provide relief aid to the most vulnerable refugee households. Hopefully by building their capacities and resilience while in exile, one day they will be able to return and contribute to the reconstruction and development of their homeland,” says DRC head of desk for Afghanistan Rikke Johannessen.

While Afghan refugees have enjoyed a wide range of government services, decent livelihood opportunities and relatively good living conditions in Iran over the last decades, the current economic situation in Iran is putting pressure on the refugee community. The cost of living has increased due to inflation and government subsidies, and services are being phased-out while job opportunities have significantly reduced.

“The living standards of Afghan refugees have deteriorated significantly, hitting the poorest and most vulnerable households the hardest. The average Afghan refugee needs to live of 1,66 USD per day, which is below the poverty line of 2 USD per day in a middle-income country such as Iran,” says Rikke Johannessen.

While nearly a million Afghan refugees have been assisted with voluntary repatriation from Iran during the last decade, major challenges remain for Afghans intending to return. Lack of economic opportunities, harsh living conditions and security are among the reasons why Afghans in Iran are reluctant to return. The poor economic prospects are also affecting the additional population of unregistered Afghan refugees residing in Iran, estimated to be around 1.000.000 persons.

DRC’s program is designed to promote livelihoods through literacy, English and computer courses, technical vocational training, business skills training and start-up grants; delivery of food assistance to extremely vulnerable households and capacity-building for local authorities and civil society to improve service-delivery and policy-development for Afghan refugees. DRC has been working closely with the Government of Iran and the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees to support Afghan refugees while in Iran and prepare Afghans for voluntary return.

DRC is participating in a conference in Tehran to promote durable solutions for Afghan refugees during April 6-7 2013.