TEHRAN (Iran News) – he United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is extremely concerned by the rapid escalation of conflict in Afghanistan, which forced two hundred Afghan refugees to flee to Iran over the weekend.
Amid intensified clashes in Nimruz province in the country’s southwest, nearly two hundred Afghan refugees have been forced to flee to Iran over the weekend.
Many more Afghan civilians may find themselves trapped if they are unable to escape from the highly volatile situation. It is estimated that since the beginning of the year nearly 400,000 Afghans have been internally displaced within the country – some 244,000 since May alone.
Iran kept the Milak border crossing open in light of the intensifying humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Not doing so may put thousands of lives at risk.
In cooperation with Iran’s Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants’ Affairs (BAFIA), UNHCR has provided immediate assistance to new arrivals, including food and water.
UNHCR and partners have today joined an inter-agency mission led by the government to border areas and potential refugee sites, to further assess the humanitarian needs on the ground and scale up the response.
Together with other humanitarian actors, UNHCR is prepared to provide urgent assistance and support reception arrangements – including emergency shelter, latrines, and other core relief items. Hygiene packs, including soap and face masks, will also be distributed to help families arriving stay safe in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
With almost one million Afghan refugee card holders already in the country, the Government of Iran has consistently welcomed Afghans fleeing protracted conflict and violence for over forty years, including through exemplary inclusion of Afghans in national health and education systems. UNHCR appeals to the government to continue this tradition of hospitality and lifesaving protection.
No large-scale displacement across borders from Afghanistan has been observed this year. Any major influx would clearly require the international community to step up immediate and sustained support to both Afghanistan and its neighbors, in a spirit of responsibility- and burden-sharing.
Iran hosting world’s fourth-largest refugee community
Iran is hosting the world’s fourth-largest refugee community. The country has generously hosted approximately 1 million refugees for the past 30 years. The majority, which mainly came from Afghanistan and Iraq, live in urban areas. Approximately 31,000 of the most vulnerable refugees living in 20 settlements located throughout the country.
Based on the latest statistics, over 3 million Afghans are living in Iran – some 780,000 Afghan refugees, over 2 million undocumented Afghans, and another 600,000 Afghan passport-holders with Iranian visas.
However, in light of the pandemic, all refugees, even those undocumented, benefited from access to free primary health services and free COVID-19 related testing, treatment, and hospitalization, just like Iranian nationals.
The same happened for the vaccination when the country has generously considered refugees over the age of 75 for vaccination against coronavirus.
In order to support the refugees living in the country, the seventh phase of the health insurance plan will cover 120,000 vulnerable refugees through a memorandum of understanding signed between the Health Insurance Organization and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
In Iran, UNHCR is seeking $16.2 million for its COVID-19 emergency, while requires an additional $98.7 million to support Iran in maintaining and sustaining its commendable inclusive refugee policies, under the umbrella of the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR).