An overview of how the Global Compact on Refugees is being turned into action in the Islamic Republic of Iran.


An overview of how the Global Compact on Refugees is being turned into action in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Girl skipping in a playground

Varamin, Iran. Afghan girls play and study alongside Iranian students and enjoy together playing with skipping ropes during break time.

Content of this page:
1. Description of the refugee situation
2. Iran's response to the refugee situation
3. Steps towards meeting the objectives of the Compact

1. Description of refugee situation

Where does the population of concern live?

Mostly in urban settings.


Population of concern category



Refugees: 951,142 Afghan, 28,268 Iraqi

Outside of camps, mainly urban areas





Find live data, information and fact sheets on the refugee situation in Iran on the UNHCR Operational Portal as well as Global Focus

2. Iran's response to the refugee situation

An overview of how the Government has structured its ability to respond to the refugee situation, with the support of partners.

The Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR) provides the overall guidance and strategic framework for the refugee response in Iran. The SSAR is a unique multi-stakeholder and multi-year regional strategy between the Islamic Republics of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan with support of UNHCR. The SSAR was launched in 2011 to ensure the protection of Afghan refugees and to find durable solutions for them. The SSAR has three main objectives: facilitating voluntary repatriation of refugees to Afghanistan, supporting sustainable reintegration of returnees in Afghanistan, and supporting the two principal host countries, Iran and Pakistan. In June 2019, the last quadripartite meeting – bringing together the three concerned countries and UNHCR - saw the SSAR extended until 2021. 

The refugee response in Iran is comprehensive and includes a multitude of stakeholders. Guided by the SSAR and the specific national priorities for Iran therein, the Bureau for Foreign Aliens and Foreign Immigrant Affairs, BAFIA (with UNHCR as co-lead and with the participation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) convenes regular SSAR Partners’ Coordination Meetings, discussing achievements, challenges, and priorities related to refugee assistance and protection for Afghan refugees in Iran. SSAR partners in Iran are 9 line ministries and other government organisations, 13 international and national non-governmental organisations, and 8 UN Organisations. 

Which partnerships have been strengthened or have been made possible thanks to the implementation of the Global Compact of Refugees?

The GCR serves as an amplifying framework for the national and regional comprehensive refugee response. Most importantly, in late 2019, the Governments of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, with UNHCR’s facilitation, have agreed to launch a Support Platform for the SSAR, thereby galvanizing sustained and enhanced political, technical, and financial contributions to find solutions for the Afghan Refugee Situation. The GCR is further informing actions to increase private sector engagement in support of refugees and their host communities in Iran.  

Partners involved


  • Bureau for Foreign Aliens and Foreign Immigrant Affairs (BAFIA) [overall refugee coordination] 

  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs [Member of the tri-partite steering group for SSAR implementation together with BAFIA and UNHCR] 

  • Line ministries and government organisations: Ministry of Education; Ministry of Health & Medical Education; Ministry of Cooperatives, Labour and Social Welfare; Iranian Health Insurance Organization; Literacy Movement Organisation; State Welfare Organization of Iran; Technical and Vocational Training Organization; Forest, Rangelands and Watershed Organisation. 

  • Non-Governmental Organizations: Association for Protection of Refugee Women and Children; Behnam Daheshpour Charity Organisation; Chain of Hope; International Consortium for Refugees in Iran; Iranian Life Quality Improvement Association; Kiayana Cultural and Social Group; Pars Development Activists Association; Rebirth Charity Organization; Society for Recovery Support; Society to Protect Children Suffering from Cancer; World Relief Foundation 

  • International Non-Governmental Organizations: Norwegian Refugee Council; Relief International 

  • UN Organisations: Food and Agriculture Organization; International Organization for Migration; United Nations Development Programme; UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; United Nations Population Fund; United Nation’s Children Fund; World Food Programme; World Health Organization 

  • Private Sector: Sequa 

3. Steps towards meeting the objectives of the Compact

Here’s a summary of how partnerships working in education, livelihoods, health and social inclusion have already transformed the lives of refugees and their hosts. 

Iran has been at the fore of inclusive and progressive policies for refugees, spearheading inclusion of refugees especially in the areas of health, education, and livelihoods. Hosting the vast majority of Afghan refugees together with Pakistan since 40 years, Iran has made commendable contributions to enhance refugee self-reliance. At the same time, Iran has invested in the return of Afghans in safety and dignity through providing, for example, far-reaching and inclusive education services and skills training that have built the human capital of Afghan refugees in Iran.  

Refugees have access to both primary and secondary public schools as well as literacy training within the national system since their arrival 40 years ago. In 2015, following a decree by the Supreme Leader, undocumented children can also enrol in public schools. Since 2015 some 130,000 undocumented children have been able to benefit from public schooling. Additionally, Iran removed all refugee-specific school fees for enrolment in public schools in 2016. As a result, and according to the Government, the literacy rate of Afghan refugees in Iran has increased from 6% to 65% since their arrival in Iran. 

All refugees have further access primary healthcare at no cost,  on par with nationals. The national health insurance system has been opened up for the enrolment of refugees who can thereby access secondary and tertiary health care at subsidized costs through the Universal Public Health Insurance. Formally-employed refugees also have  access to a public and employment-based health insurance. As a result, inclusive health policies have increased the resilience of refugee communities by reducing out-of-pocket expenditures and offer many protection dividends, including increased access to birth registration for children or decreased risks of negative coping mechanisms to cover health expenditures.  

When it comes to self-reliance, refugees in Iran can work legally in three job categories, which effectively means they can access 87 job types. To access formal employment, male refugees between 18-63 years of age can apply for temporary work permits which are valid for one year. For technical and vocational training, Iran has avoided establishing a parallel system and has opened up its national training system to refugees. 

The Government has further taken important steps towards documentation and to address statelessness. In 2017, it conducted a “Headcount” of undocumented foreigners. Participants in the headcount received a slip which has proven to offer certain level of protection. In October 2019, the Government amended the nationality law to allow children born to Iranian women and non-Iranian men to acquire Iranian nationality.  

Pledges and contributions made by Iran



Pledges and contributions dashboard (interactive by Area of Focus)

This dashboard includes all pledges and contributions made towards the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees in Iran, including national pledges made by the Government of Iran itself.