The Government of Iran is responsible for refugee registration and refugee status determination. It renews refugee identification cards (Amayesh) on a regular basis enabling refugees to access basic services and attain work permits. The existing valid Amayesh cards belongs to cycle XI, which have been extended since 22nd of September 2017.
In addition to the refugee caseload in Iran which the government estimated at around 951,142 Afghan refugees and 28,268 Iraqi refugees. In 2015, 620,000 Afghan were holding a passport with valid Iranian visa, among them some were previously undocumented or Amayesh cardholders. The government estimates that a further 1.5 - 2 million undocumented Afghans live in Iran.
As part of the government’s efforts to regularize the documentation status of the Afghan population in Iran, an identification exercise was initiated in early 2017, targeting three groups of undocumented Afghans. A complementary identification exercise for Afghans holding family passports was carried out in mid-April 2017, and further registration of those with expired Amayesh cards, was initiated in August 2017.
As part of a durable solutions strategy, UNHCR Iran continues to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of Afghans and Iraqis to their respective countries of origin. All UNHCR offices and voluntary repatriation centres across the country provide information and assistance to refugees seeking to return to their country of origin. They can receive the assistance needed do so, including cash grants for transportation.
However, largely due to the continued instabilities in Afghanistan and Iraq which are not conducive to return, voluntary repatriation has been witnessing a steady decline over the years. From 16,763 individuals that repatriated in 2012, only 4,737 repatriated in 2014, 2,951 repatriated in 2015, and 2,426 individuals repatriated in 2016. In the first half of 2017, 337 refugees voluntary returned to their country of origin.
For more information on Voluntary Repatriation please contact:
Field Office Tehran: (+98 21) 88 21 25 20
Tehran (Soleimankhani Centre): (+98 21) 44563148
Esfahan: (031) 34 42 81 77
Mashhad: (051) 37 68 56 41
Kerman: (034) 32 47 68 50-1
Shiraz: (071) 37 22 96 92
Mashhad (Dogharoun Field Unit): (+98 51) 54557355-7
Resettlement is a protection tool, and a durable solution for many vulnerable refugees and also an important burden sharing mechanism among States. Resettlement to a third country is considered only when a refugee cannot safely voluntarily repatriate and when their life, freedom, security, health and basic rights are in danger in the country in which they have taken refuge. Resettlement is not a right and is an option for only a very limited number of refugees around the world.
While UNHCR is making efforts to oblige resettlement countries to protect vulnerable refugees and to support host countries so that refugees have sustainable solutions available to them, resettlement quotas for Iran have been on the decline over the past few years. Several resettlement countries have recently reduced their quota for Afghans or have completely closed resettlement of Afghans from Iran, as priority has been given to other nationalities globally.
A total of 1,255 individuals departed in 2014 compared to just 889 in 2015 and 788 in 2016. In the first half of 2017, 405 individuals departed to resettlement countries from Iran
UNHCR operates a Legal Services Project with the objective of providing legal assistance to refugees in Iran and resolving disputes through alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. The project components include Dispute Settlement Committees (DSCs) and UNHCR Hired Lawyers (UHLs). In addition to participating in the DSCs, UHLs provide free legal advice and assistance to persons of concern to UNHCR in different provinces including Tehran, Qom, Isfahan, Yazd, Kerman, Fars, Khorasan Razavi, and Golestan.
Supporting Persons with Specific Needs:
Addressing the needs of persons with specific needs is a priority for UNHCR and in partnership with the State Welfare Organisation (SWO) under the Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Affairs, and Social Welfare, UNHCR’s community outreach initiatives have strengthened the identification of refugees with specific needs including the elderly and people living with disabilities.
UNHCR provides support to Persons with Specific Needs through targeted cash-based assistance, referral to governmental and non-governmental partners and inclusion in relevant programmes, such as community-based projects as well as livelihoods and job-creation projects, in order to facilitate self-reliance and social integration. Child Protection is targeted through a number of community-based projects nationwide including targeting out of school children.
UNHCR continues to reach out to communities and include them as equal partners in assessing, designing, and implementing activities and projects in cooperation with their local government. Furthermore, in line with the community-based approach and through direct implementation, UNHCR has been implementing community-based projects with the aim of engaging and empowering refugee community, promoting participation, accountability and peaceful change within the communities. These activities help to address issues identified and prioritized by the communities themselves. I.e. related to child labour and out of school children, to support peaceful coexistence, and to engage with vulnerable refugees including those with disabilities.
Cash Based Interventions
UNHCR is implementing cash-based interventions (CBIs) including cash-for-work and multi-purpose individual cash assistance projects to assist vulnerable refugees meet their protection and basic needs with choice and dignity. CBIs are used to access higher education and healthcare; to support shelter and livelihoods needs; to support persons with disabilities; to provide for transportation in the case of voluntary return; and to assist in covering basic needs prior to resettlement. Jointly with the Government of Iran, UNHCR is currently exploring further ways to diversify its cash-based interventions.