Iran is significant to global forced migration both as a source and as a destination country for asylum seekers and refugees. It is part of an unstable region and led by a religious theocracy government. Ethnically diverse, the population of Iran is approximately 75 million.
Iran is a signatory to the Refugees Convention as well as other international conventions such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Despite having ratified these treaties, Iran continues to be widely criticised for human rights violations, including the ongoing execution of juvenile offenders, homosexuals and political dissidents.
Iran hosts the second largest number of refugees in the world after Pakistan. In 2012, according to UNHCR, there were 868,300 registered refugees living in Iran. Of these, 95 per cent were from Afghanistan. In May 2012, Iran partnered with UNHCR and neighbouring states to deliver the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees. This strategy aims to deliver basic health and education services, while also facilitating the relocation and voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees in the Middle East.
Asylum seekers arriving in Iran are registered by the government and provided with a refugee identity card. They are allowed to live in the community, where they receive basic primary health care and the right to attend school. Refugees who hold an Afghan passport are also able to apply for temporary work permits. The Iranian Government delivers these services in conjunction with the financial and logistical support of UNHCR.
Iran is also a major source of refugees. In 2011-12, Australia received 2,015 asylum applications from Iranian nationals. Of these, 1553 people had arrived by boat. The majority of asylum seekers from Iran are found to be genuine refugees, with 88 per cent receiving a positive assessment of refugee status from the Australian Government in 2011-2012.
Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Asylum Trends – Australia: 2011-12 Annual Publication (2012)
United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Global Report (2012)
United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Global Trends 2012 (2013)