Last Updated: Monday, 01 September 2014, 14:30 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2007 - Iran

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 11 July 2007
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2007 - Iran, 11 July 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/46963883c.html [accessed 1 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Refoulement/Physical Protection

Iran deported dozens of registered Afghan refugees. In August, a Government official said the country had expelled 130,000 Afghans over the last three months. Iran agreed to allow the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to screen deportees for registered refugees at one border crossing, Dogharun, but hindered its access. Iran also continued to resist setting up a second monitoring station in Milak that its 2003 repatriation agreement with UNHCR and Afghanistan required. Iranian security forces had the full refugee registration database available to them at detention centers to prescreen deportees.

Iran continued to encourage Afghans to repatriate by restricting employment and freedom of movement, levying taxes, launching mass roundups of unregistered Afghans, and revoking the refugee cards of Afghans arrested for petty offenses.

In August, the Government ordered all Afghan refugees to leave the country within three months but relented in September, and the Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants Affairs (BAFIA), part of the Ministry of the Interior, extended the validity of refugee cards.

In November, in Zahedan, Iranian Disciplinary Forces (IDF) shot at a car carrying 12 Afghans, killing two and injuring four. The IDF did not release the results of its investigation, but did say that none of the victims was a registered refugee. In October, in the same areas, a truck carrying Afghans to detention crashed, killing one Afghan and one police officer and injuring 50 Afghans.

Iran honored UNHCR's return advisory, which held that conditions in Iraq were not conducive to mass returns, for its 54,400 Iraqi refugees. The Government also reported hosting some 30,000 refugees of various nationalities (including Tajiks, Bosnians, Azeris, Eritreans, Somalis, Bangladeshis, and Pakistanis) but did not allow UNHCR access to them or to any information about them and turned away asylum seekers who sought interviews with BAFIA. During 2005 and 2006, Iran reregistered 940,000 Afghan refugees who had initially registered in 2001 or earlier, but did not reregister more recent arrivals. In March, Iran agreed to extend its agreement with UNHCR and Afghanistan for the repatriation of Afghan refugees for another year. Iran was party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951 Convention) and its 1967 Protocol but maintained reservations on many of its rights. The 1979 Constitution allowed the Government to grant asylum to applicants "unless they are regarded as traitors and saboteurs." Iran's 1963 Regulations Relating to Refugees (1963 Regulations) provided that "Refugees should not be forcibly returned to the country where their life or freedom is endangered for political, racial or religious reasons or for their membership in a particular social group."

In its development planning, Iran acknowledged both refugees and displaced persons as types of foreign nationals living legally in Iran. It used the Convention's definition of refugee and defined displaced persons as persons who, "owing to outbreak of civil or international war, without any formalities," leave or are driven from their "country of origin but [are] not able to prove [their] well-founded fear of persecution on the basis of Geneva 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol."

Nearly 5,300 Afghans returned voluntarily with UNHCR's help, but no Iraqis did so. Third countries resettled nearly 740 refugees: ten Iraqis, the rest Afghans.

In September, Iran's Parliament passed a law allowing children of foreign fathers and Iranian mothers to apply for Iranian citizenship at age 18. Children of Iranian fathers were already granted citizenship.

Detention/Access to Courts

Iran regularly detained refugees for illegal entry, lack of documentation, illegal employment, and movement outside their provinces of registration without permission. Typically, Iran revoked their refugee cards and briefly detained them before deporting them to Afghanistan, although it released some who were able to present proper documentation. Iran did not allow UNHCR or any other humanitarian agencies to monitor its detention facilities. However, deportees UNHCR interviewed in Afghanistan reported physical and verbal abuse while detained.

BAFIA issued identification cards to all of the 940,000 Afghan and 54,000 Iraqi refugees it registered. Although Iran extended the validity of Afghans' cards in September, the cards themselves did not indicate this. BAFIA informed law enforcement agencies, but arrests of Afghans with proper documents continued nonetheless. BAFIA secured the release of some of these detainees, but courts ordered others deported. Iran offered Special Identity Cards that provided greater privileges to Afghan refugees who were religious students, disabled in war, relatives of martyrs, or married to Iranians.

The 1963 Regulations read, "A refugee has the right to refer to Iranian Courts to demand justice." The delays and costs associated with the courts, however, deterred most refugees from pursuing cases there. UNHCR offered refugees free legal advice. In 2004, BAFIA and UNHCR established Dispute Settlement Committees (DSCs) in seven provinces with significant Afghan communities to mediate legal disputes that might have hindered repatriation. They added five more Committees in 2005. Each DSC consisted of a judge, one representative each from BAFIA and the Afghan community, and a lawyer contracted by UNHCR. DSCs mediated nonpayment of salaries and landlords' refusal to return housing deposits. They were successful in gaining reimbursements of $850 to $14,500.

Freedom of Movement and Residence

Afghan refugees were generally able to choose their places of residence. Fewer than five percent lived in camps. Toward the end of the year, however, Iran closed some areas to refugees and required refugee residents to either repatriate or relocate (sometimes to camps). In October, provincial authorities in East Azerbaijan province announced that Afghan refugees could not remain there and gave them ten days to present themselves to authorities. Few of the 50,000 refugees subject to the order obeyed. Iran made no move to enforce it. The Government also required refugees to obtain passes from local authorities to travel outside their provinces of residence.

Of the Iraqi refugees, only 5,000 remained in camps. Only refugees holding documents issued before the 1979 Revolution had access to international travel documents.

Iran maintained its reservation to the freedom of movement provisions of the 1951 Convention, and its 1963 Regulations allowed the Government to restrict the residence of refugees.

Right to Earn a Livelihood

Iran allowed refugees to apply for work permits but only in 16 menial job categories, such as brick making and animal husbandry. Refugees also had to pay a 700,000 Rial ($76) registration fee, and employers were required to contribute towards insurance. Generally, Afghan refugees worked illegally, but the Government fined employers and detained and deported refugees caught doing so. Iraqi refugees also worked without permits, but Iran was generally more tolerant of them.

Iran maintained a reservation to the 1951 Convention provisions regarding the right to work. The 1963 Regulations allowed recognized refugees "employment in the fields authorized for foreign nationals and those fields deemed appropriate." The 1990 Labor Law mandated the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs to issue, extend, and renew work permits to refugees, subject to the written agreements of the Ministries of the Interior and Foreign Affairs.

The 1963 Regulations provided refugees the right to the "acquisition of movable and immovable properties" generally on par with other foreigners. With respect to purchase of real property, it conditioned this right on the foreigner's country allowing Iranians to purchase land. It also allowed the Government to ban foreign land purchases near borders and in other areas. The 2004 regulations, however, restricted Afghans' rights to obtain mortgages, to rent and own property, and to open bank accounts. The Government did allow Iraqi refugees to open bank accounts.

Public Relief and Education

Iran allowed Iraqi children free access to schooling, but charged fees to Afghan children. It also required refugees to pay municipal taxes before allowing their children to enroll in school. Special Identity Card holders did not have to pay to enroll their children in school and could enroll in the national health insurance program. Iran also gave health insurance to Iraqi refugees. In November, a group of Iranians and Afghans combined to provide services for the Afghan refugees, including financial support and volunteer teachers.

The 1963 Regulations allowed refugees medical and social services on par with nationals. Authorities increased health insurance premiums and introduced a tax early in 2004 to encourage repatriation as UNHCR reduced medical assistance.

Few international humanitarian agencies operated in the country as the Government restricted their operations and did not allow UNHCR to fund them. The Government did not allow UNHCR or nongovernmental organizations access to the 30,000 Tajik, Bosnian, Azeri, Eritrean, Somali, Bangladeshi, and Pakistani refugees it reported hosting.

Iran's Fourth Plan of Economic, Social and Cultural Development included provisions for a council to coordinate administrative policy towards foreign nationals (including refugees and displaced persons) and a committee to suggest new policies but did not include refugees in any development plans.

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