HAMI association presented its points of view on the 3rd thematic discussion leading to the global compact on refugees. Please continue to read in detail:
The Islamic Republic of Iran has been hosting millions of refugees and migrants for about 4 decades which is one of the largest population in protracted displacement. Iran was the 4th largest refugee hosting country with 979,400 registered refugees with authorities in 2016, 97% reside in urban areas. Besides there are about 620,000 migrant with Iranian visa as well as 1.5-2 million undocumented Afghans residing in the country.
Number of repatriation to AFG has reduced dramatically in last years (from 15,000 in 2012 to about 2000 in 2016) this is while new comer illegally enter and reside in country in sake of better living situation and security. Pushing factors in AFG are still not addressed during last 16 years after fall of Taliban and establishment of central government. Expansion of insecurity has made many part of AFG insecure to live and forced many Afghans to move internally or reach safety in neighboring countries. Afghanistan remained the second-largest source country for refugees and also ranked as second group of new arrivals in Mediterranean in large refugee movements to Europe in 2015 and 2016.
This is while the country of Iran despite of facing with lots of political challenges and economic limitation to deal internally and in international community during last decades, have been providing basic services including health, education and work permit for employment to large number of refugees and migrants while based on reports at least 15-20 % of refugees are categorized as extreme vulnerable and most of the other also face with lots of vulnerabilities and needs regular services and supports which is a big burden for the country while most of the expenses are covered by the government alone with few supports form international community. Resettlement quota had also decreased for Afghans in Iran and hardly considered as durable solution (just 500 people in 2016).
Recent developments on refugee inclusion in national system in Iran:
Since 5 years ago with upcoming of New Government in Iran, there has been positive changes in governmental bodies and public sectors attitudes towards refugees as well as provision of further space for NGOs to advocate for refugee right and involvement in development of programs in the country.
For instance there has considerable progress in terms of equal access to Education for all children regardless of their status during last 3 years, after long time joint advocacy of NGOs as a network, enrolment of other actors like media, religious leader, as well as arrangement of several and regular meeting with related governmental bodies and public sectors as well as technical supports in programing in a way to benefit both refugees and host community. Following the developments the total number of refugee and migrants children at Iran Public Schools increased from 320,000 in 2014 to 472,000 in 2017 (72,000 out of which are additional undocumented children who received education support card to get registered). Per capita cost of students in different educational levels is on average USD 644, out of which only about 1 out of 50 is supported by UNHCR.
Although there has been great developments, many children are still out of school due to lack of enough space specifically at marginalized areas with larger number of refugee and migrant children. Considering the huge burden of education cost for government and very few support from the international community, the government is overwhelmed. There is also a big risk that provision of more service might act as a pulling factor for new comer from AFG and have negative impacts on migration policies in the country. There is also a concern for increase of xenophobia due to pressure on host community, overcrowded classrooms which has affected the quality of service for nationals and host community.
As another successful example for refugee inclusion in national system in Iran, there has been also considerable development in provision of Health services. The Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the few countries in the world to include refugees in universal public health insurance similar to its nationals which started in 2015 with UNHCR support while more than half of the relating costs is covered by the government. The new system covers (hospitalization, para-clinical and out-patient services, including doctor’s visits, radiology, lab tests & medication costs) free for 117,000 venerable families and the remaining refugee population enrolls in exactly the same healthcare package by paying approximately $11/month.
This is while access to primary health care has been provided for all refugees and migrants for free around the country which included pregnancy health care, pre and post-natal mother and child care, environmental improvement, training households to improve their life styles and vaccination services including hepatitis B, tetanus, measles and mump, are all provided free of charge.
270,000 Refugee and migrants with work permit benefited from accident insurance service for themselves and their families in 2017 and about 30,000 refugees and their families also enrolled at Social Security Insurance same as nationals and benefited from its services including medical insurance coverage, Retirement pension, Disability pension, sickness benefit, marriage grant, funeral & death grant, accident compensation & maternity benefit.
All this developments which were planned with the main objective of promoting social welfare for refugees, can help to decrease the social gap among host and refugee community and reduce economic and security threats in both host and refugee community besides entitlement of refugees basic human rights. Therefore, continuation of such projects and its expansion to cover more groups needs further supports and burden sharing from international community.
At the end and after sharing some best practices from inclusion of refugees in national system and services in Iran, I want to summarize some of measures and incentives to promote further inclusion in local planning such as:
- Addressing the root causes in origin country is the key and should be addressed more strongly, otherwise will face with new movements, few repatriation and frustration in both host and refugee community,
- Interventions should not ignore national vulnerable in the programs to both empower them and prevent possible conflicts with refugee community. In this regard, specific ratio should be defined for each project to target specific number of refugees as well as host community,
- Local NGOs and refugee based organizations and groups should get more involved in programing and strategic planning of government as well as international organizations & UN agencies to ensure refugee’s need is better addressed,
- POAs should be planned in a way to consider both origin and host country for further sustainability and practicality which cannot be separately implemented for each county,
- Education projects should be considered as protection tools. It should planned for whole family and provide package of education and social services to not only educate the child and family, develop their life skills and prevent early school dropout, child labor, early child marriage and pregnancy, violence against children and etc. This is one HAMI’s best practices after 9 years of provision of education for refugee and migrant children out of school.