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Journal of International Humanitarian Action

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One in every nine refugees worldwide is from Afghanistan, and Iran is one of main host countries for these refugees. Close to 40 years of hosting Afghan refugees have depleted resources in Iran and resulted in promoting and sometimes forcing repatriation. Repatriation of Afghan refugees from Iran to Afghanistan has been long facilitated by humanitarian organizations with the premise that it will end prolonged displacement. However, lack of minimum standards of living, among other factors such as private covered living area, can make repatriation far from a durable solution. This study aims to highlight the value of access to shelter as a pull factor in ending forced displacement, by comparing Afghan refugees’ housing situation in Iran with returnees’ access to shelter in Afghanistan. Findings suggest that over 80 % of surveyed Afghans in our study had access to private durable covered living space with minimum standards of living in Iran. The documents retrieved in our systematic literature review show that access to similar standards was between 30 and 73 % among Afghan returnees. Results of our analysis call for reevaluation of repatriation as a durable solution for Afghan displacement in the absence of decent shelter conditions, and highlight a need for incorporation of shelter assistance programs into repatriation plans.


© The Author(s). 2018 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.


At the time of publication, Mitra Naseh was employed at Florida International University.



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