Iranian govt expels tens of thousands of Afghan refugees

KABUL (Agencies): Tehran has expelled tens of thousands of Afghan refugees so far this year, while roughly the same number have returned voluntarily due to US sanctions against Iran, Afghan officials said.

Some 181,000 refugees have been expelled or have left willingly, said Reza Baher, spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations.

“Some of those deported are trying to go back to Iran,” he said. “Many of those who’ve been deported are without documents, barring them from justifying their stay there.”

Last year, some 750,000 Afghans, many without travel documents, left Iran willingly or unwillingly, he said.

Some 2.4 million Afghans live in Iran, many holding either a visa or a permit to stay, according to the ministry.

Baher said the devaluation of Iran’s currency and the poor state of its economy due to US sanctions have led Afghans to return home voluntarily.

The International Organization for Migration said it has provided assistance to hundreds of returnees.

“As Afghans primarily work in the informal economy in Iran, the demand for this type of work is drastically reduced,” it added in a statement.

Analyst Taj Mohammad Ahmadzada said that the Afghan government “lacks the means to find jobs or provide any financial support for the returnees.”

He said: “We have an estimated 1.4 million people internally displaced by war and natural disasters, who live in miserable conditions. The return of tens of thousands from outside adds to the problems across the country.”

WahidullahGhazikhail who runs a think tank, said that with the poverty rate in Afghanistan already at “70 percent,” the influx of returnees will “create a crisis.”

“They need work, so they’re obliged to join insurgency groups to feed their children,” he said.