Iran: MSF exits repatriation program

In the atmosphere of economic crisis that pervades Iranian society, refugees are more and more openly regarded as, at best, economic migrants and, at worst, criminals. In recent years, the Iranian authorities have considerably tightened policies regarding refugee admissions and Afghans' right to asylum. The activities of MSF in Iran are centered on providing medical assistance to these refugees. Problematic repatriation In 1999, an estimated 100,000 Afghans were escorted by force back to the frontier. In light of the Iranian government's resolve to deal with the immigration problem in this arbitrary and brutal fashion, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) launched a joint repatriation program in 2000. MSF participated in that program by providing medical services. By the year's end, 134,000 people had been repatriated, and almost 70,000 people had been granted temporary asylum. Yet conditions governing this asylum were not transparent, and the arrests and deportations continued. The repatriation proj-ect's implementation was also far from satisfactory. Ultimately, deteriorating living conditions in Afghanistan and the inability to guarantee acceptable medical conditions for repatriated Afghans forced MSF to suspend its participation in the project. In Gulshar, MSF continues to provide consultations, home visits, mobile clinics and social services through a clinic run by the Iranian Ministry of Health. Gulshar has a population of around 80,000, including 40,000 Afghans. MSF reaches people living in precarious situations, especially new arrivals. For more information and to read accounts of some refugees, see the Iran file at A new mission has been opened in Teheran, and there are also plans to operate in the provinces of Khorasan and Sistan-Baluchistan. These programs will also focus on vulnerable communities of Afghan refugees. MSF began work in Iran in 1995. International staff: 6 National staff: 56