In 2012, the Islamic Republics of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, with the support of UNHCR, developed the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees to Support Voluntary Repatriation, Sustainable Reintegration and Assistance to Host Countries (SSAR).
The Strategy has served as an enabling multilateral platform for consensus-building, strengthening existing partnerships and engaging new actors. More than 60 government agencies, humanitarian and development actors, UN agencies and NGOs, have been engaged in its implementation to date. The synergies created through this multi-stakeholder approach help to ensure complementarity of responses, avoid duplication of efforts and maximize outputs.
The SSAR is owned and driven by the three Governments in the region. Partnership and collaboration between the Governments, including through the SSAR Quadripartite Steering Committee, are central to advancing regional solutions dialogue and coordination of all aspects of the SSAR.
The Strategy is aligned with the national priorities and policies of the three Governments and seeks to mobilize resources and political support for their implementation. It acknowledges that refugee protection and solutions are a collective responsibility of the international community and require a commitment to address root causes of displacement and more equitable responsibility-sharing with host countries, particularly in support of their inclusive policies and resilience-building measures (i.e. access to education, healthcare, vocational training, employment, and income generation schemes) that benefit both refugees and host communities through investments in national and local systems. This is a holistic, cross-border and solutions-oriented approach that helps to support host communities, empower refugees and returnees by building their capacity for self-reliance, and allows for a more strategic use of donor resources. Enhanced cost-effectiveness is particularly crucial in the current context of growing needs and competing refugee situations globally. A dedicated SSAR Joint Resource Mobilization Strategy and the well-established country-level Friends of Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (FOSSAR) networks provide important platforms for outreach, consultations and advocacy with traditional and non-traditional donors and partners, coupled with arrangements to enhance operational coordination.
Meeting the Objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees - Voluntary repatriation and sustainable reintegration, Education, Livelihoods and Health
Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
- Since the inception of SSAR, more than 660,000 Afghan refugees have voluntarily repatriated from the Islamic Republics of Iran and Pakistan. Returnees receive a voluntary repatriation cash grant averaging USD 250/per person to address their initial needs, and a range of services including health screening, vaccination and support in obtaining civil documentation.
- The Government, UNHCR and partners identified Priority Areas of Return and Reintegration (PARRs) that require additional humanitarian and development investments to enable voluntary return and sustainable reintegration. The PARRs link short and medium-term community-based protection projects to longer-term development programmes. They are aligned with Afghanistan’s National Peace and Development Framework and National Priority Programmes, notably the Citizens’ Charter. Discussions are taking place with the Government to increase the numbers of PARRs in Afghanistan.
- In 2019, through its community-based protection projects (CBPs), UNHCR and partners constructed schools, clinics, community centres, water and sanitation facilities, improved road and irrigation networks, supported household shelters with cash, and provided skills training and business start-up support to returnees and host communities in the PARRs, benefitting over one million individuals. Explicit focus was on women and youth empowerment. As a part of direct COVID-19 response, 1.16 m people in PARRs benefitted from hygiene awareness raising, provision of wash facilities, distribution of hygiene kits etc in 2020
- As a part of direct COVID-19 response, 1.16 m people in PARRs benefitted from hygiene awareness raising, provision of wash facilities, distribution of hygiene kits etc in 2020.
Islamic Republic of Iran
- Since 2015, following a decree by Iran’s Supreme Leader, all Afghan children, regardless of their documentation status, were given access to public schools, where they studied the national curriculum and studied side by side with Iranian students. In 2020, more than 480,000 Afghan children were enrolled in primary and secondary schools, of whom some 130,000 were undocumented Afghans. Afghans have access to university education.
- Since 2015, 50 schools were constructed jointly by the Government and UNHCR, with the running costs covered by the Ministry of Education.
- As of 2016, all refugee-specific school enrolment fees were lifted by the Government.
- Since their arrival, the literacy rate of Afghan refugees in Iran has increased from 6% to 65%, according to the Government.
- Refugees have access to primary healthcare at no cost, on a par with nationals. Additionally, all refugees can access secondary and tertiary health services at subsidized costs through the Universal Public Health Insurance (UPHI), an initiative led by the Government of Iran and supported by UNHCR.
- Refugees can receive free-of-charge COVID-related test, treatment and hospitalization, as part of the national response to the pandemic.
- Refugees in Iran also benefit from vocational training and be employed in a number of job categories. Refugees can also open banks accounts, which further improves their financial inclusion.
Islamic Republic of Pakistan
- In 2017, the Government adopted a Comprehensive Policy on Voluntary Repatriation and Management of Afghan Refugees, focusing on: voluntary repatriation; extension of the validity of refugee ID/ Proof of Registration (PoR) cards; enactment of national refugee legislation; improved border management; a flexible visa regime for refugees; and registration and documentation of undocumented Afghans.
- In 2017/18, the Government registered nearly 880,000 previously undocumented Afghan nationals.
- Refugees enjoy access to Pakistan’s national education and healthcare systems, on a par with nationals. UNHCR is supporting schools and Mother and Child Health centres in refugee villages.
- In February 2019, the Government enabled Afghan refugees to open bank accounts, paving the way towards their greater economic inclusion.
- Since its launch in 2009, the Refugee Affected and Hosting Areas (RAHA) programme has benefitted more than 12.6 million individuals, including Afghan refugees and their Pakistani host communities. In RAHA programme, UNHCR strengthens government facilities in hosting areas – benefitting both refugees and host communities. These interventions are in the prioritized sectors of health, education and livelihoods.
- In partnership with the Government’s National Vocational and Technical Training Commission (NAVTTC), UNHCR is enrolling Afghan refugee and Pakistani youth in technical skills training programmes in government technical and vocational institutes to enable them to acquire marketable skills.
- In response to the COVID-19, UNHCR is supporting the most vulnerable Afghan refugees through provision of emergency cash assistance. UNHCR’s emergency cash assistance mirrors the Government’s Ehsaas emergency cash programme, where vulnerable families receive Rs.12,000 (approximately $77) to cover a four-month period.
- UNHCR also provided PPEs and related medical equipment to the Government Health departments and partners. A number of WASH activities were also initiated to promote a clean and healthy environment in refugee villages.
Solidarity in Action
The Support Platform for the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees is both a continuation of a long-affirmed regional strategy and a new approach to joint action under the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR). Partners, both old and new, are invited to join with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Islamic Republics of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan as we work toward greater resilience and durable solutions for Afghan refugees and the communities who host them. Following the launch of the Support Platform in December 2019, the comprehensive portfolio of projects presented to key donors and other stakeholders at the High-Level Meeting convened on 6 July 2020 aims to:
- Enhance capacity for voluntary return and sustainable reintegration in Afghanistan by leveraging humanitarian and development partnerships in the Priority Areas of Return and Reintegration (PARRs).
- Create conditions conducive to voluntary repatriation by i) supporting land distribution to returnees in Afghanistan, ii) investing in resilience and portable skills of refugees in host countries to enhance potential for reintegration, and iii) tailoring assistance to enable initial anchoring upon return.
- Channel additional investments into the national public service delivery systems in the Islamic Republics of Iran and Pakistan (education, healthcare, social protection, vocational skills development) to support inclusive policies of the Governments benefitting both host communities and refugees.