United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)


History of Agency in the World and Iran

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established in 1950 by the UN General Assembly. It is mandated to lead and coordinate international action for the worldwide protection of refugees and the resolution of the refugee problem. The legal status of the refugees is defined in two international treaties, the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. These two tools have been the foundation of both the international refugee law and UNHCR’s efforts to help and protect refugees. During its lifetime the agency has assisted an estimated 50 million refugees to successfully restart their lives. In 2007, a total of 146 states are parties to one or both instruments. The Islamic Republic of Iran acceded to both the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol in 1975.
UNHCR first opened an office in Iran in 1984. The refugee agency expanded its presence and scope of activities in Iran with the massive influx of Iraqi refugees following the Gulf War in 1991 and the start of mass return movement to Afghanistan in 1992. Today, UNHCR has its country office in Tehran and three sub-offices in Mashad, Zahedan and Ahwaz. It has two field offices in Orumieh and Dogharoun, two Border Exit Stations in Milak and Dogharoun and two Transit Centers in Shalamcheh and Piranshar. Five Voluntary Repatriation Centres are operating in Esfahan, Kerman, Shiraz, Mashad and Soleimankhani.


Priorities Globally and in Iran

The Islamic Republic of Iran hosted some 915,000 Afghan registered refugees and 54,000 Iraqi registered refugees at the beginning of 2007. The first Tripartite Agreement for the joint programme of voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees between UNHCR, the Governments of Iran and Afghanistan was signed in 2002. The agreement has been extended yearly since then. The 2007 Tripartite Agreement incorporates the following:
– UNHCR to provide returnees with cash grants to facilitate their reintegration;
– The Government of Afghanistan to assist in securing land allocations for returnees, and
– The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to provide one member of each family with the option of returning to Iran with a one year extendable work and residence permit.
Since the start of the voluntary repatriation programme until the beginning of 2007, around 1,643,491 Afghan refugees had returned to their home country from Iran. 848,311 of Afghan returnees were assisted by UNHCR Iran. Between November 2003 and December 2005, 146,692 Iraqis returned to their homeland. 18,305 of these Iraqi returnees were assisted by UNHCR Iran. The return process to Iraq was halted in 2006 due to the volatile security situation there. This process was resumed in February 2007 when 34 returnees crossed the Shalamcheh border.

In 2007 UNHCR will continue to do the following:
– Assist and provide support to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Nationals Affairs [BAFIA]) in developing the Iranian asylum policy;
– Provide legal assistance/protection to refugees in Iran;
– Facilitate voluntary repatriation to Afghanistan;
– Facilitate voluntary repatriation to Iraq;
– Provide assistance to the Ministry of Interior and BAFIA to cover operational costs;
– Implementation of assistance projects (vocational, training, education, health) for registered Afghan and Iraqi refugees in Iran, and
– Assistance to the most vulnerable non-camp refugees in Iran.[1].

[1]  “ The United Nations in Iran(3rd edition)” Published by the United Nations System in Iran, 2011-P:18-19



Address: No. 5, East Emdad St., North Shiraz Ave., Vanak Sq., Tehran, 19917
Tel: (98-21) 8805 7201 – 11            E-mail : irnte@unhcr.org
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