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MSF in Iran, 2006/2007
Field Staff: 106
Reason for Intervention:
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Since the end of the war in Afghanistan in 2002, a tripartite agreement between the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHC R) and the governments of Iran and Afghanistan have encouraged Afghan refugees to return to their home country. This “voluntary repatriation” process, however, organized by UNHCR, stopped in 2006. In April 2007, deportation of illegal Afghans by Iranian authorities resumed and 150,000 Afghans have been expelled from the country.
There are officially 1.2 million documented Afghans in Iran and approximately the same amount without proper documentation. Iranian authorities estimate that the majority of Afghans are economic migrants, and therefore not entitled to legal status or access to free healthcare. Many people are reluctant to go back and prefer to remain in Iran. Even after deportation, some Afghans decide to return to Iran. With Iranian restrictions on work, educational opportunities and health services, living conditions for refugees are difficult, but remain better than in Afghanistan.
At Zahedan, capital of Seistan-Baluchistan province, close to the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan, MSF runs a program providing medical assistance to Afghan refugees. Primary and secondary healthcare are provided to this population, which has little or no access to the Iranian healthcare system. Three medical clinics offer consultations as well as nutritional support for children. In 2006, 55,520 consultations were conducted in Zahedan. MSF doctors refer patients to other structures for tests or to specialists when necessary and in 2006 3,522 patients were referred.
A team of social workers is also in place in the refugee community to identify people in need of medical care and ensure they get access to consultations. They also distribute material goods such as blankets and heaters as needed.
Mashhad project closes MSF closed a similar program assisting Afghan refugees in Mashhad, Khorasan province at the end of 2006, as an epidemiological survey showed that many of these people had access to jobs and healthcare. MSF has also urged the government and local NGOs to devote greater attention to this population. 25,000 consultations were performed here in 2006.
New project in Mehran Given the extreme difficulties in accessing patients and providing healthcare inside Iraq, in late 2007, a project will start in Mehran, close to the Iraqi border, to provide surgical care for victims of violence coming from Iraq.
MSF has worked in Iran since 1995.