Voluntary Repatriation (UNHCR-Facilitated Return)

! Before engaging in a return trip to Afghanistan, you should find as much reliable information as you can from official sources like BAFIA and UNHCR about the security situation in your final destination and how to get there. Do not initiate travel and/or void your Amayesh or Hoviat card until you are confident you can go back safely and in a durable manner.

Following the issuance of the UNHCR non-return advisory for Afghanistan on 16 August 2021, UNHCR remains cautious and continues to provide enhanced counselling to prospected returnees on the situation in their final destinations and routes thereto, particularly to those with more vulnerable profiles, on a case by case basis.

UNHCR and the Government of Iran assist those who wish to return to their country of origin (i.e. Afghanistan and Iraq) when the return can be done in safety and dignity.

If you are an Amayesh or Hoviat card holder and wish to return to your country of origin, we recommend you inform yourself on the security situation and important aspects such as access to employment and availability of other basic services in your final destination.

Non-Return Advisory

UNHCR’s position on returns to Afghanistan is as follows:

a. UNHCR has issued a non-return advisory to States.  This advisory, issued after the August 2021 events in Afghanistan, calls on States hosting Afghans to suspend the forcible return of Afghan nationals to Afghanistan.

b. While UNHCR has made clear that those who do not wish to return to Afghanistan should not be forcibly returned, UNHCR does respect and support the decision of individual Afghans to return home, provided certain benchmarks are met.

c. UNHCR will facilitate returns to Afghanistan based on the following benchmarks:

  • The choice to return is voluntary and well-informed
  • There are no significant protection concerns in an intended return location
  • Dignity is assured during the return and reintegration process
  • There is no exploitative arrangement in the return
  • The principles of family unity and the best interests of the child are respected.

Voluntary Returns

  • Your decision to return to Afghanistan or remain in the current location is fully voluntary and on the basis of your informed decision. Before deciding to return to Afghanistan, you and members of your family should ensure that you have adequate information about the condition in the intended destination in Afghanistan. The conditions include safety/security and available services such as health and education facilities and economic opportunities and other factors that are important to you and your family, before deciding whether or not you wish to return to Afghanistan.
  • You and members of your family should not feel compelled to return due to any pressure or because you are forced to leave the current location for any reasons.
  • If you indicate an intention to return initially but later decide that return is not in the best interest of yourself and your family, you can change your decision. But please make sure to communicate  your decision prior to de-registration (of your PoR/Amayesh/Refugee card) and issuance of a Voluntary Repatriation Form (VRF).

Available assistance for Voluntary Repatriation under UNHCR programme

Who is eligible to receive UNHCR’s assistance to repatriate under UNHCR’s VolRep programme to Afghanistan?

  • All registered Afghan refugees residing in Iran holding a valid Amayesh card, issued by the respective governments Iran. Mandate Afghan refugees registered with UNHCR are also eligible for UNHCR’s assistance. Afghans who DO NOT HOLD Amayesh card, are not entitled to any return assistance from UNHCR. Afghans who have already received UNHCR’s assistance to repatriate in previous years will not receive cash assistance again.  
  • In order to be eligible for assistance you must first go to a UNHCR Voluntary Repatriation Centre (VRC) to be processed and issued with a VRF.
  • Please note that UNHCR does not provide any assistance to Afghans, who do not hold a VRF. Returning Afghans must therefore ensure that they have obtained their VRF before leaving the VRC, and that it is readable. If the print is faded or cannot be read, then another copy must be obtained before leaving the VRC.

What kind of assistance will repatriating Afghan refugees receive?

  • Given the transportation costs have significantly increased in Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, high inflation over the past two years, and deteriorating economic and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, UNHCR increased the voluntary repatriation cash grant from USD 250 paid per person to USD 375 per person, effective 01 August 2022 at the Encashment Centres (ECs) in Afghanistan.
  • Afghan returnees who have been issued with a VRF at the VRCs in Iran and Pakistan are eligible to receive USD 375 per person which is comprising of two components: USD 150 per person as transportation grant and USD 225 per person as integration grant.
  • The transportation and integration grants are provided at the UNHCR Encashment Centres (ECs) inside Afghanistan, located in Nangarhar, Kandahar, Kabul and Herat provinces. Prior to departure, returning refugees are informed at VRCs in Iran and Pakistan to which EC they must present themselves to receive this assistance.
  • In addition, at the ECs, returning refugees will receive basic health care, overnight accommodation when needed. They may also receive other services, provided by other partners present in each EC. The services available in the ECs are as follows:
ActivitiesKabulKandaharJalalabadHerat
Mine awarenessNoYesNoYes
Back to school campaignNoNoNoNo
Child friendly spaceNoNoYesYes
Basic health careYesYesYesYes
Malnutrition screeningYesNoNoNo
VaccinationNoYesNoNo
Overnight accommodationYesYesYesYes
Mitigating measures to avoid the transmission of COVID-19YesYesYesYes
Drug awarenessNoYesNoNo
Legal counselingNoNoYesNo
  • Furthermore, the VRCs and ECs are equipped with necessary mitigating measures to avoid the transmission of COVID-19. All returnees are encouraged to adhere to recommended COVID-19 preventive measures such as washing hands, keep distance and to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

How to benefit from the UNHCR Voluntary Repatriation program

You, and all your family members going back with you to your country of origin, should contact the UNHCR office nearest to your place of residence for counselling. You will be asked to sign a Voluntary Repatriation Form (VRF). The VRF is a document issued by UNHCR to returning refugees (returnees) confirming their intent to return voluntarily to Afghanistan/Iraq with the assistance of UNHCR.

It is important that you provide accurate information to UNHCR for filling in the VRF as this form will not be re-issued in Afghanistan/Iraq or elsewhere in Iran. In Afghanistan/Iraq, the VRF will serve you as a return document proving that you were a refugee in Iran.

Reintegration Grant for Afghans

For Afghan nationals, the VRF is also used to decide if you qualify for a Reintegration Grant. Once you have crossed the border and arrived in Islam Qala, UNHCR partner and Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations (MoRR) / Directorate of Refugee and Repatriation (DoRR) staff will inform you about next steps in Afghanistan.

The Reintegration Grant for Afghan nationals is provided at the UNHCR Encashment Centre (ECs) in Herat province in Afghanistan. At the EC, all returnees will receive basic health services, information on how to access legal aid assistance, and transit facilities for overnight stay. Those returning by air, depending on the area of destination, can receive the Reintegration Grant either at the Kabul Encashment Centre or other ECs/UNHCR offices close to their area of destination in Afghanistan. The returnees will be advised by a UNHCR staff which EC to approach when they are issued with a VRF.

Iraqi returnees do not get a Reintegration Grant. For any advice on return you may get in touch with our UNHCR Offices in Iraq. Please do check this link. If you are from a different country, you can find information about UNHCR there by going to their relevant Help site. You can find a list of all help sites here.

Repatriation by air

UNHCR may facilitate repatriation of refugees who wish to repatriate by air and can afford the cost of their plane ticket and arrange their own transportation to the airport.

If you are willing to repatriate by air, you should approach the relevant BAFIA office to surrender your Amayesh card, receive a travel LP and an introduction letter. You should then take your passport and introduction letter to the Disciplinary Forces (NAJA) in order to obtain an exit permit. Before surrendering your Amayesh card, we advise you to approach UNHCR for repatriation counselling.

Customs allowances and restrictions

The Government of Iran authorizes all repatriating Afghans to move their professional equipment/tools and home items with customs exemption unless prohibited. In order to export professional equipment and tools from Iran, a special permit is required. To obtain this permit, please contact your local BAFIA office.

Each family is allowed to carry home items in a family need quantity, any item more than the need of a family will be sentenced to customs taxation and UNHCR cannot support in such instances.

If you wish to access further information on Voluntary Repatriation and permitted and prohibited items you can refer to the online Voluntary Repatriation leaflets on the UNHCR Iran webpage: https://www.unhcr.org/ir/.

Non-Amayesh and non-Hoviat Card Holders

UNHCR does not have a programme for Voluntary Repatriation of non-Amayesh or non-Hoviat card holders.

Which documents do Afghan refugees need to bring to the VRC?

  • Prior to returning, Afghan refugees should make sure that all the documents they will need in Afghanistan, such as their children’s school enrolment documents (education certificate and records), are updated and properly signed/verified by the Afghan Embassy or Afghan Consulates in Iran/Pakistan.

Current situation in Afghanistan

  • The current socio-economic situation, including safety/security in Afghanistan, remains fluid  and may vary from one location to another.
  • Reports produced by humanitarian agencies in 2022 in relation to Afghanistan indicate the risk of drought, acute hunger, raising food insecurity, in the context of declining formal and informal economies.

Information on UNHCR Support in Afghanistan

  • As of 1st August 2022, 72 districts in Afghanistan are designated as Priority Areas of Return and Reintegration (PARR) and the significant efforts were made to extend various services and support in these areas.

How can I get information on land mines/UXO?

  • Refer to leaflets which will be provided at the ECs in Afghanistan. In Dogharoun also ICRC provides Mine awareness training.

How can I get information related to Housing, Land and Property?

  • You will receive information at the ECs in Afghanistan.

Questions, Complaints and Feedback

Please contact UNHCR if you have any queries or feedback or complaints related to UNHCR’s activities or assistance for facilitating your return to Afghanistan