UNHCR Iran, Tehran, 1 July 2019: The Islamic Republic of Iran joined millions worldwide to commemorate World Refugee Day (WRD), as the number of people fleeing war, persecution and conflict exceeded 70.8 million in 2018.
This is the highest figure ever reported by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and is double that of 20 years ago, with some 80% of refugees living in their neighbouring countries. UNHCR’s newly released annual Global Trends Report (GTR) also indicates that 25 people are forced to flee their homes every minute, half of whom are children.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is the 6th largest refugee-hosting countries in the world, generously hosting close to 1 million refugees, mainly Afghans. The largest hosting country is Turkey, hosting 3.7 million refugees, followed by Pakistan with 1.4 million Afghan refugees.
This year marks 40 years of the Afghan refugee situation and 35 years of UNHCR presence in Iran. In coordination with the Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants Affairs of the Ministry of Interior (BAFIA), events took place around the country to commemorate World Refugee Day 2019, which is internationally commemorated on 20 June. This year in Iran, colourful refugee-focused events countrywide included painting and kite running competitions, theatre performances, photo exhibitions and painting competitions.
On 1 July 2019 In Tehran, government officials including the Minister of Interior, Dr. Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, and the heads of diplomatic missions and UN agencies international NGOs, UN staff and a number of refugees attended the World Refugee Day event at the Ministry of Interior to commemorate the courage, talents and perseverance of millions of refugees. A photography exhibition showcasing the finalists of a refugee photography exhibition funded by DEVCO (the European Commission) highlighted a range of inclusive services provided to refugees by the Government of Iran, including those in the areas education, health and livelihoods. Young refugees also presented a variety of skills through sports and musical performances.
Speaking at a joint UNHCR-BAFIA Press Conference with the Director General BAFIA Central, Mr. Mahdi Mahmoudi, the UNHCR Representative in Iran, Mr. Ivo Freijsen, lauded the government for “Continuing to generously host close to 1 million refugees over four decades while conditions in Afghanistan remain unstable.”
Recognising Iran’s historical and longstanding generosity in hosting refugees against the backdrop of increasing challenges, Mr. Freijsen called on the international community to step up its support. “In the spirit of the Global Compact on Refugees, which calls for more responsibility-sharing to host countries, there has never been a more important time to mobilize support to Iran”, he added.
Refugees in the Islamic Republic of Iran
Providing for close to 1 million registered Afghan refugees and almost 30,000 Iraqi refugees, the Islamic Republic of Iran is currently one of the largest refugee hosting countries in the world. Of these refugees, 97 per cent reside in urban areas, side-by-side with Iranian host communities. The remaining three per cent live in 20 government-run refugee settlements. In addition to registered Afghan refugees, government estimates indicate that there are 1.5 to 2 million undocumented Afghans in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
UNHCR has maintained an uninterrupted presence in the country for 35 years, and works in close coordination with its main government counterpart the Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants' Affairs BAFIA to provide protection and assistance to Afghan and Iraqi refugees throughout the Islamic Republic of Iran.