• Crisis Severity ?
    3.0
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Impact ?
    2.3
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Humanitarian Conditions ?
    3.5
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Complexity ?
    2.7
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Access Constraints ?
    3.0
    No constraints
    Extreme constraints

Overview

03/04/2020

Iran hosts one of the largest refugee populations in the world, the vast majority from Afghanistan. Around 1 million registered Afghan refugees and between 1.5 and 2 million undocumented Afghans live in Iran.?

Some 97% of Afghan refugees live in urban areas, while the other 3% live in approximately 20 refugee settlements across the country. Over half of the refugees (55% ) live in the three provinces of Tehran, Isfahan, and Khorasan Razavi.?

In recent years, policies have slowly been introduced by the Iranian government to increase the provision and renewal of Amayesh cards, or refugee ID cards. The Amayesh card grants conditional freedom of movement, temporary work permits, and access to the national education and healthcare systems for registered refugees. The situation of undocumented Afghans is a stark contrast to registered refugees, with extreme restrictions on livelihood opportunities, access to education, or healthcare, and constant threat of deportation by Iranian authorities.?

Latest Developments

03/04/2020

There are no recent developments. This crisis is being monitored by our analysis team.

For more information related to the COVID-19 impact on Afghan refugees in Iran, see content below.

Key Priorities

03/04/2020

Protection: Forced deportation is a significant risk. There were 480,000 returns to Afghanistan in 2019, of whom 180,000 were deportations. Afghans are at risk of detention, extortion, and mistreatment by Iranian authorities. Repeated attempts by Afghans to smuggle themselves back into Iran puts them at risk of abuse, exploitation, and human trafficking.?

Livelihoods: Undocumented Afghans lack access to formal work opportunities and those with Amayesh cards are only eligible for conditional work permits, limited to 87 different types of employment, primarily in construction, agriculture, or other vocational industries. These sectors are often seasonal and are particularly vulnerable to economic sanctions applied to Iran.?

Impact of COVID-19

09/04/2020

The COVID-19 outbreak in Iran is causing thousands of Afghan refugees to return to Afghanistan. More than 53,000 Afghans returnees arrived in Nimroz and Herat provinces during the second week of March 2020, an increase of 171% from the previous week. In the month of March, an estimated 150,000 Afghans returned to Afghanistan via the Iran-Afghanistan border crossings.

Afghans cite the inability to access Iranian health facilities in case of illness as the reason for their departure. Further, industries such as construction and agriculture, which provide informal employment for many Afghan refugees in Iran, have reported closures due to the virus, forcing refugees back to Afghanistan in search of livelihood opportunities.

Afghanistan initially closed the border between the two countries on 23 February, but reopened it two days later based on WHO recommendations. Given the porous nature of the border, controlled crossings with health screenings are better than forcing Afghans to use informal crossings.?

The ACAPS team is monitoring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information related to the outbreak, see the ACAPS COVID-19 Project.

Information Gaps and Needs

03/04/2020

The exact number of Afghans in Iran is unknown, because most are undocumented. Around 1.5 to 2 million have been living in Iran for the last four decades.

The vast majority of Afghans live in urban areas alongside host communities. This makes it difficult to know their location and humanitarian needs, and also poses a challenge for any coordinated humanitarian response.