Iran is hit by multiple crises, with a deterioration of the humanitarian situation. The country is going through a health crisis, aggravated by challenges in importing medical goods, and further exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. The country is being to host an estimated 3.65 million Afghans, who are experiencing increased vulnerabilities. Iran is also facing an economic crisis compounded by the socio-economic impact of COVID-19. Besides, natural hazards and climate change pose additional challenges.
Iran is the worst hit country by the coronavirus pandemic in the Eastern Mediterranean region and one of the most affected worldwide. A third wave is ongoing, the worst yet. Despite humanitarian exemptions, US sanctions constrain Iran’s procurement of essential medical goods, hindering access to life-saving treatments for Afghans and Iranians. The socio-economic impact of COVID-19 continues to exacerbate humanitarian and developmental needs.
Iran hosts the greatest number of Afghan refugees. Up to 1 million are registered refugees or Amayesh cardholders, while around 2.5 million are passport holders and undocumented. Over 450,000 Afghan passport holders have been issued Iranian visas to work or study there. In 2019, the country moved towards reducing statelessness, allowing children of Iranian mothers and non-Iranian fathers to obtain Iranian nationality. Some 97% of the Afghan refugees live in host communities, with less than 3% in refugee settlements.
Depending on their registration and documentation, Afghans in Iran receive various degrees of protection and access to basic services. Since 2015, free education is accessible to all children in Iran, regardless of their nationality. Education facilities, however, are constrained. Healthcare needs are high and resources are not enough to cover each of the most vulnerable registered refugees.
In 2021, the European Union has allocated €15 million in humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable people in Iran. This brings the total EU humanitarian support in the country to €76 million since 2016. Part of the funding assists local efforts in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic, including the provision of urgent medical, protective and testing equipment. EU humanitarian funding also supports the delivery of other life-saving medicines and equipment in Iran.
EU humanitarian aid funds the provision of vital assistance to most vulnerable Afghan refugees and host communities in the country, their protection and access to basic services. In particular, this support includes cash assistance to the most vulnerable refugees for the renewal of identity documents and paperwork necessary to enrol children into schools, as well as covering expenses associated with education, paying for essential medicines and other basic needs. In view of the overstretched education facilities to include additional Afghan children, humanitarian partners also provide support through rehabilitation of schools, classrooms and sanitation facilities.
Further, the EU humanitarian budget contributed to Iran’s emergency response to assist populations hit by floods, both in 2020 and 2019. This also comprised the activation of the European Civil Protection Mechanism and the mapping of affected areas by EU Copernicus.
Currently, the EU's assistance in Iran is channelled through international non-governmental organisations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and UN agencies.