• Crisis Severity ?
    3.6
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Impact ?
    3.6
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Humanitarian Conditions ?
    4.1
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Complexity ?
    2.9
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Access Constraints ?
    3.0
    No constraints
    Extreme constraints

Key figures

  • 82,926,000 Total population [?]
  • 3,400,000 People affected [?]
  • 3,400,000 People in Need [?]

Overview

13/09/2021

Iran hosts one of the largest refugee populations in the world, with the vast majority of it from Afghanistan. Around 780,000 registered Afghan refugees and 2.3 million undocumented Afghans live in Iran ?. 96% of Afghan refugees live in urban areas, while the other 4% live in approximately 20 refugee settlements across the country. 55% of the refugees live in the three provinces of Isfahan, Razavi Khorasan, and Tehran ?.

Since the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan in August 2021, the number of Afghans seeking asylum in Iran in search of safety and economic opportunity has increased dramatically. Up to 5,000 people were reported to arrive daily in the aftermath of the takeover, compared to 1,400–2,500 on average beforehand ?.

In recent years, the Iranian Government has slowly introduced policies to increase the provision and renewal of Amayesh cards (refugee identity cards). Amayesh cards grant registered refugees conditional freedom of movement, temporary work permits, and access to the national education and healthcare systems. The situation of undocumented Afghans is in stark contrast to registered refugees, with extreme restrictions on livelihood opportunities and access to education and healthcare, as well as constant threat of abuse, exploitation, and deportation by Iranian authorities ?.

Every year, thousands of Afghans return to their country of origin voluntarily because of lost work and wages, discrimination, restrictions on movement, and lack of access to medical services. An estimated 663,000 Afghans have returned from Iran since the beginning of 2021, up from 420,000 in 2020 and 264,000 in 2019 ?. This might be attributed to the economic decline in Iran resulting from COVID-19 and loss of livelihood or involuntarily return caused by lack of documentation ?. The impact of other compounding factors has aggravated humanitarian needs, as Iran is highly prone to earthquakes and other natural hazards (including drought, floods, and locust infestations) that are disruptive to livelihoods and the economy ?.

Latest Developments

14/06/2022

No recent significant humanitarian developments. The crisis is being monitored by our analysis team.

Humanitarian Access

07/12/2021

HIGH CONSTRAINTS 

Humanitarian access in Iran has deteriorated following an influx of Afghan refugees into Iran after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in mid-August 2021. Nearly 3,700 refugees entered Iran between August–October. Most Afghan refugees enter irregularly and lack the proper documentation to fully access essential services. Even though healthcare services and education in Iran are available for everyone, including undocumented refugees, access to those services remains challenging because the fear of deportation leads to the decision to not approach health centres or enrol children in schools.

Administrative requirements and processes pose access constraints for documented refugees: document renewal is costly, and the economic situation in Iran limits refugees’ ability to regularly renew the needed documents to access services, including education, livelihood, and shelter assistance as provided by the Iranian Government.

The economic sanctions imposed on Iran since the 1980s affect the humanitarian operations of the limited number of organisations in the country. Challenges in transferring cash and importing goods are reported, resulting in delays in the provision of aid. Sanctions also affect the import of certain medical equipment and medicines by the Government.

Read more in the latest ACAPS Humanitarian Access Overview.

Key Priorities

10/03/2021

Protection: Forced deportation is a significant risk. 856,793 undocumented Afghans returned to their country of origin in 2020, of whom 324,779 were deported. 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. Those with Amayesh cards are only eligible for conditional work permits that are 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.?

Information Gaps and Needs

10/03/2021

The exact number of Afghans in Iran is unknown, because most are undocumented. Around 2.1–2.5 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.?