Education Made Easier for Afghan Refugees

Education Made Easier for Afghan Refugees  Education Made Easier for Afghan Refugees

The Cabinet has passed a bill to amend the bylaw on Education Regulations for Foreign Nationals that will facilitate the enrollment, in particular of refugees, in Iranian schools. The bylaw was initially passed in April 2004.

In April 2015 the Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei ordered all Iranian schools to enroll Afghan children regardless of their legal status. He decreed that no Afghan, including undocumented or illegal refugees, should be deprived of public education.

Following the directive, Iran’s National Office on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) took up the issue to propose and pass an amendment to the existing regulations in order to facilitate the process and remove barriers.

“After several sessions to assess the bill and discussions with pertinent state bodies, the amendment bill was sent to the Cabinet, and the case was immediately taken up by the Cabinet’s Social Commission,” said Mozaffar Alvandi, secretary of the NOCRC and advisor to the Iranian justice minister, IRNA reported.

“The amendment was passed and the bylaw revised last week after meetings with representatives from organizations and experts,” Alvandi said.

The amendment adds several modifications to the previous regulations for enrollment of foreign nationals, in particular Afghan and Iraqi refugees, in schools across the country.


First is the flexibility and leeway given for the type of document the Education Ministry requires from applicants before enrollment.

Under Article 1 of the bylaw, registration of any foreign resident without provision of the listed documents was banned. The list included identity cards and other documents issued under the ‘Amayesh’ or refugee registration scheme, (registration booklets, multiple entry visas, or visas with six months validity).

An education-purposes-only card has been added to the list of valid documents to be provided for school enrollment. The cards are to be issued and distributed by the Interior Ministry’s centers for registration and administrative affairs of refugees in the 31 provinces, and will be legally binding on the Education Ministry.

Another advantage of the amendments is that NGOs involved in areas relating to children and refugees can now introduce and refer foreign residents who are deprived of education, to the Education Ministry.

A major change is to Article 2 of the original regulations that stipulated each applicant to deposit a specific amount of money to the government as per the family’s financial status. The amount was for the purpose of tuition only and did not include extracurricular activities.

There is no mention of deposit payment requirement in the new revision, and all enrollment conditions are equal for Iranian and foreign students.

“It seems that with the new changes, the Education Ministry will embark on extending free public education and equal education opportunities to all students in the country, in particular Afghans as they number in millions,” said Alvandi.

Most of the Afghans fled to Iran either after the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1979, or following the Afghan civil war in the 1990s and the US-led invasion in 2001. Large numbers also took refuge in neighboring Pakistan. During these decades Iran was home to nearly four million Afghan refugees -- the largest refugee population in the world.

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Iran continues to host one of the largest and most protracted refugee populations in the world, despite the voluntary return of hundreds of thousands of Afghan (and Iraqi) refugees to their countries of origin over the past decade, according to the UN’s Trends in International Migrant Stock: The 2015 Revision.

The Iranian government is the primary contributor to the country’s refugee program through various ministries and organizations. Additional support is provided through semi-governmental organizations and charities. The government grants the refugee population on its territory access to: medical services, education for students, literacy classes for out of-school children and the labor market.

However, citing its own immense economic problems, mainly unemployment, the government in Tehran has made known that it wants the refuges to leave voluntarily to their homeland or any other country willing to take them.  

According to Iran’s Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants’ Affairs (BAFIA), as of October 2011, the number of refugees registered with the authorities stood at over 882,000 (over 840,000 Afghans and some 42,000 Iraqis). And 97% of all refugees live in urban and semi-urban areas with only 3% in settlements.

During a visit to Tehran in April, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner George Okoth-Obbo said that there are 960,000 registered Afghan refugees in Iran, but the number of unregistered Afghans far exceeds that number: about 3 million.