As an integral part of the strategic regional response to Afghan displacement, DRC has initiated an operation in Iran. The overall objective of the programme is to improve livelihood opportunities and promote protection and durable solutions for Afghan refugees, whether they stay in Iran or return to Afghanistan. However, return possibilities are currently bleak due to the precarious security situation and poor economic prospects in Afghanistan. Consequently, Afghan refugees in Iran are not very eager to return and reintegrate in Afghanistan but are trapped in a situation of protracted displacement in Iran.

Addressing this challenge, DRC’s operation in Iran focuses on two main objectives. Firstly, DRC aims to improve access of refugees to economic livelihood activities supporting both refugees in a situation of displacement or in preparation for repatriation, with particular focus on the urban caseload which constitutes 97% of the Afghan refugees in Iran. The livelihood approach focuses both on building human capital through vocational training and financial capital through business training and start up support. Secondly, DRC seeks to strengthen the capacity of stakeholders to ensure participation of refugees in livelihood activities with particular initial focus on socio-economic research and evidence-based programming and policy development.

Currently, almost 900.000 registered Afghan refugees reside in Iran along with 42.000 refugees from Iraq. In addition, an estimated number of 2 million Afghan nationals in Iran remain unregistered and live illegally, because the Iranian authorities have not granted refugee status to new arrivals since 2005. The refugees, registered as well as unregistered, live under deplorable conditions at the margin of society, with a very limited ability of sustaining sufficient economic livelihoods and a minimum of protection. Due to international sanctions and donor reluctance the situation for the refugees is worsening. DRC nevertheless remains committed to continue support to the Afghan refugees. Throughout 2013-14, DRC Iran intends to conduct socio-economic research, to provide vocational training, business skills training, business start-up support to Afghan refugees as well as humanitarian assistance to extremely vulnerable households in Iran.