The recent establishment of an education program has helped to better the situation of Afghan children in Iran. Despite the efforts and pressure put on Afghan refugees to leave Iran and return to the country destroyed by a series of conflicts since the Soviet invasion in 1979, many Afghans find it difficult to do so. In 2016, Afghanistan was the second after Syria to generate the largest number of refugees worldwide. The UNHCR recorded that more than 2.5 million Afghan refugees live in the neighboring countries – a million in Iran, 1.4 million and the EU hosts around 43,000, most of them in Germany.
In Iran, about 2 million Afghans do not have residence permits. The Iranian government has therefore recently targeted this vulnerable population by creating programs that officialize unregulated migrants and make residence requirements less strict. Tehran has also taken step to integrate all legally resident Afghans in the national health system and promote vaccination especially against polio since Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only countries in the world where the disease is endemic.
The EU has been supporting these programs. Members of the delegation for relations with Iran, chaired by Janusz Lewandowski, who visited the country, recently said that the EU wanted the children to go to school and have employment opportunities. The EU has been funding humanitarian projects in Iran since 1987 and allocated around 10 million euros through nonprofits and UN agencies to help Afghans living in the country.
The EU aid focuses on the schooling of Afghan children in Iran, medical assistance, health, and food security. The money is also used to provide refugees with access to medical insurance and legal advice. In the Isfahan health center, MEPs checked the quality of outpatient care and had the opportunity to speak with Afghan doctors and nurses as well with the managers of the center.