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AFGHANISTAN-IRAN: Iran called upon to halt winter deportations

KABUL, 18 December 2008 (IRIN) - Afghan government officials and aid agencies are calling on the Iranian authorities to halt the deportation of Afghans from Iran during the winter for humanitarian reasons.

“Large-scale expulsions during the cold season will push our country into a humanitarian crisis,” said Abdul Matin Edrak, director of the Afghanistan National Disasters Management Authority (ANDMA).

Mass deportations will exacerbate the plight of over eight million vulnerable Afghans who are already facing hunger this winter due to a severe drought, high food prices and conflict, according to aid agencies.

The Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation (MoRR) said more than 360,000 individuals, mostly young men, have been deported from Iran in the past seven months.

Every day about 1,000 people are being deported to western Afghanistan’s Herat Province through the Islam Qala border point, provincial officials have reported. Deportees are also entering the border province of Nimruz.

No one at the Iranian embassy in Kabul was available for comment.

Iran reportedly slowed down deportations last winter - ostensibly for humanitarian reasons - but resumed the process in April.

Remittances vital

Unemployment at home and better opportunities in Iran are prompting many young Afghan men to travel to Iran illegally, using a clandestine but “well-organised human smuggling network”, according to research by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Afghan migrants find jobs in construction, manufacturing and agriculture, and are willing to work in onerous conditions in a bid to support their families and dependants back home.

“The overall flow of remittances, calculated on the basis of an annual rate of US$2,496 per person, is estimated at US$500 million, representing approximately 6 percent of the national GDP [gross domestic product] of Afghanistan,” said the UNHCR/ILO study launched on 7 December.

“Iranian employers prefer hiring Afghan workers because they represent a cheap, flexible and highly productive source of labour,” the study said.

Vulnerable deportees

It is unclear how many Afghan migrants currently work and live in Iran, but informal estimates put the figure at around one million.

The Iranian authorities have frequently said all Afghan nationals who live and work in Iran illegally will be deported to their home country. MoRR’s figures suggest over 600,000 Afghans have been deported from Iran in the past two years.

Such deportations not only adversely affect families who rely on remittances but also cause security, health and social challenges in urban areas, according to aid agencies.

“I worked for six months in Iran. I was promptly deported after the police arrested me. All my money and belongings remain there,” said Azizullah, a deportee in Herat city.

“I have no home, nothing to eat and no money in my pocket to travel to my home in Kabul,” said another.

Acknowledging Iran’s sovereign right to expel intruders from its territory, the UN and rights watchdogs have asked that deportations be humane and gradual.

Today is International Migrants’ Day.


Theme(s): (IRIN) Migration



Copyright © IRIN 2008
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
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