Cash distribution in Yazd Province. Photo: Pars Development Activists

Renewing key documents brings hope to Afghans in Iran

Dena Razmehr|Published 01. Jun 2023
"Many Afghans have been forced to borrow money or sell their valuables to renew their refugee documentation in Iran," says Mohsen, Information, Counselling and Legal Assistance Assistant for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

Every year, Afghans must renew their refugee documents (called “Amayesh cards”), otherwise their stay in Iran may be considered as “irregular”. This time, they had to pay IRR 1,900,000* for each member of the family. But as the cost of living in Iran increases, refugees are struggling with what to prioritise.

Thanks to European Union Humanitarian Aid, NRC is helping Afghans in Iran to renew their refugee documents and gain access to other rights, such as education and healthcare.

One less barrier

Yazd Province is located at the centre of Iran and is famous for its desert and beautiful cultural and historical sites. But it is less famous for the large number of Afghans living there, which you will notice as soon as you enter its capital, Yazd City. Refugees in Yazd Province are mostly from Afghanistan’s Farah Province. While many arrived in Iran four decades ago, there are many others who arrived just recently.

Afghans in Yazd Province mainly work in the mining and construction sectors. However, they still struggle to meet all their basic needs.

NRC prioritised providing assistance to the Afghans who had been unable to renew their refugee cards in previous years, as they were recently given the opportunity to renew documentation that had expired years ago. As Mohsen says: “It was an opportunity that couldn’t be missed!”

“Since some Afghans are quite elderly, many Iranians came in to receive NRC’s assistance on behalf of their older Afghan neighbours. They also helped them navigate the process of renewing their refugee documents,” recalls Mohsen.

NRC’s team went to Yazd City and two refugee settlements (Ardakan and Maybod) to provide cash cards and information about the legal processes for renewing their Amayesh cards, as well as to identify the refugees’ other needs.

Scaling up activities

“There was a man who bought everyone juice and cake to thank us for the help,” says Mohsen.

This mission was one of NRC’s first activities in Yazd Province. Many who live there feel that Yazd is a neglected province, as it receives little help despite hosting a large number of Afghans.

Everyone was so happy with the assistance because many had not received any support before. They kept asking: “What organisation are you from?” Based on this feedback, NRC has set more ambitious goals. We initially planned to support 100 families but ended up helping 800 – more than 3,300 people in total!

Cash distribution in Yazd Province. Photo: Siavash Oveisi Arian/NRC

NRC in Iran

Since 2012, NRC Iran has been assisting displaced Afghans in Iran as well as their Iranian host communities. We work to improve protection and access to basic humanitarian services across ten provinces (Alborz, Tehran, Yazd, South Khorasan, Hormozgan, Kerman, Razavi Khorazan, Marzaki, Semnan, and Sistan and Baluchestan).

Since mid-2021, NRC Iran has scaled up its work significantly in connection with recent developments in Afghanistan, while maintaining all existing programmes in Iran.

Read more about our work in Iran

*(exchange rate in January 2023: 430,000 Rials = 1 Euro)