Thousands of Undocumented Iranians Denied Affordable Kerosene In Winter Months
Tens of thousands of people living in poverty in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan Province are being denied heating oil in the cold winter months because they lack identification papers, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned.
“I have a birth certificate but my husband and kids don’t and so we don’t get [state] coupons to buy kerosene and we cannot afford to buy it [on the black market],” Gol Bibi, a resident of the province’s capital city of Zahedan, told the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) on February 6, 2018.
“Most of us are sick during the winter,” added Bibi, who is only able to obtain enough subsidized kerosene for herself because state coupons are issued according to the number of documented people living in a household.
Sistan and Baluchestan is one of Iran’s poorest provinces. In December 2017, Hosseinali Shahriari, the member of Parliament (MP) representing the city of Zahedan, said 80 percent of the province’s 2.8 million people live under the poverty line.
According to the ILNA report, in the 2000s, people residing in rural areas of the province where identification documents are not a necessity migrated to cities, where the lack of identification papers prevents people from applying for state services.
“Most of the undocumented people are in Sistan and Baluchestan Province, particularly in Zahedan where they number between 20,000 and 50,000,” said the city’s representative in Parliament, Alim Yarmohammadi.
“These people should be treated as citizens and receive assistance packages from the government until their status is worked out,” he added.
Kerosene is the main source of heating oil in the province, where there is no access to piped natural gas. People can purchase it at lower prices subsidized by the state, but must apply with a birth certificate.
Some migrants have been able to get birth certificates but others have abandoned the effort or avoided it all together due to the complex bureaucratic process.
“My husband died years ago and my kids have birth certificates but whenever I go to get coupons the authorities won’t help me,” another Zahedan resident told ILNA.
“For the winter, we have no choice but to pay 250,000 tomans ($68 USD) per barrel for kerosene from the black market,” added the unnamed resident. “It only heats our house for 15 days.”
People with documentation living in the eastern region of the province are meanwhile facing heating oil shortages, Darvish Narouei, the governor of the city of Saravan, told ILNA.