Iran to Provide Universal Public Healthcare to Refugees

Pictures of Afghan children at a school run by a local mosque for Afghan orphans & refugees in Shiraz, Iran. Photo by Simon Monk (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Pictures of Afghan children at a school run by a local mosque for Afghan orphans & refugees in Shiraz, Iran. Photo by Simon Monk (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

In an announcement from the United Nation mission in Iran, the Iranian government will include all of its registered refugees into its Salamat Insurance Scheme. This is a collaboration between the Ministry of Interior, responsible for immigrant affairs, the Iranian Health Insurance Organization and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This plan is targeted at Iran's Afghan and Iraqi refugee population.

Iran's English daily Tehran Times, part of the Mehr News Agency owned by the Islamic Ideology Dissemination Organisation, described the “gratitude” of Sivanka Dhanapala, the UNHCR Representative in Iran, for the program:

UNHCR’s Representative in Iran acknowledged the Iranian Government’s contribution, expressed UNHCR’s gratitude towards the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for all the services it has rendered to the largest protracted urban refugee population in the world for over three decades, and inclusion of the refugees in this Universal Insurance Scheme which is exemplary not only regionally but also globally, and added that such a services haven’t been provided before and I sincerely hope other countries will follow this example.

Half of the coverage for the program will come from the Iranian government, while the UNHCR will contribute with US $8.3 million. The program will be available to all registered refugees, who will receive access to a health insurance package for “hospitalization and temporary hospitalization”, as available to Iranian nationals.

According to the UNHCR website, Iran is home to one of “the world's largest and most protracted refugee populations.” Iran's Afghan refugee population nears 1 million, with an additional estimated 1.4 to 2 million unregistered refugees living and working in the country.

Iran's treatment of this demographic has been subject to past criticism, however, most notable in the 2013 Human Rights Watch report that detailed the mistreatment and sometimes abuse Afghans faced from both Iranian society and the government.

For their 2015 projection, the UNHCR detailed their expectations for Iran's intake for mostly Afghan, Iraqi and Pakistani refugees as outlined in the image below.

Screenshot from UNHCR country operations profile.

Chart from UNHCR country operations profile.

Iran has been criticized for not taking in any Syrian refugees throughout the civil war there. This reproach comes amidst the fact that it is heavily involved in the Syrian conflict as an ally and supporter of the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

Indeed, this development in instating universal public healthcare for refugee populations is a notable milestone for both Iran and the region. Iran can, however, still improve its image in bolstering its role in alleviating the neighbouring Syrian refugee crisis.


  • Dan Disqus

    “Iran has been criticized for not taking in any Syrian refugees throughout the civil war there”!
    Is this a joke?
    Iran is expected to take on more refugees from Syria too?
    Europe is stopping any refugees to even enter their countries and they cry over a few thousand refugees……but Iran is expected to take on some more? over and above the 3 million they have now had for decades?”
    Someone should tell these so called “human …..agencies” to stop smoking whatever it is they are smoking!

  • Teddy P. McGinnis

    Iran doesn’t have a border with Syria. Further more the land route from Syria to Iran through Iraq is a war zone occupied by ISIS. So there is not a way for large number of Syrians to go to Iran. But Iran has taken a few thousands of Syrian who have flown to Iran.

  • EarthView

    Iran is not supporting the terrorists in Syria. Why don’t Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and the U.S. take care of the refugees since they created the crisis in Syria? Of course, nobody would want to go to Saudi Arabia, but let them pay for their care at least.

  • alex marcus

    This author is very naive and is ignorant of Iran history! I need to educate her that Iranians fought for 200 years to defeat and evict Arab invaders in early Islamic period and more recently fought for 8 years to stop another wave of Arab invasions by Saddam supported by most Arabs. Therefore, Iranians should not and will not allow any Arab population to resettle in Iran under any circumstances. That would be inviting your enemies to your home! As for Syrian refugees, they should be given refugee status by the cashed up Gulf Arab states that are ethnically and culturally similar and more importantly are directly responsible for the current mess in Syria. Iran has been hosting more than 2 million Afgan refugees for 30 years despite of the fact UN not only has not provided any support but also brutally have sanctioned Iranian people for the last decade.

  • Pari

    Although Iran has hosted 2 million refugees the past 30 years, they have not been good hosts. Trust me, I am an Afghan and I have lived in Iran. Being called an Afghan in Iran is a curse word, literally. Afghans have worked in the toughest jobs (as construction workers, sewages…you name it) and paid low wages (at times they have even been robbed of their wages because those hiring them refuse to pay them. I have seen this happen to those closest to me). If Iran is even taking these steps its because Human Rights Watch is watching them. You have no idea how it feels to watch your own people be treated like sh*t (excuse the language) right in front of your eyes. The years I lived in Iran taught me a valuable lesson on how it feels to be a refugee and to be neglected. My heart goes out to all of the Syrians.

    • Pari

      Afghans have definitely “paid” for their stay in Iran (by being treated like trash and also by doing all of the hard labor for the country)

    • Ali

      Altough I acknowledge most of your words I want to remind you that Afghans simply cant expext to illegally cross the border and permanetly settle in Iran. Thats not working anywhere.

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