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AFGHANISTAN-IRAN: Afghan deportees complain of lack of aid

Many deportees have criticised the quantity and quality of humanitarian aid provided to them

HERAT, 14 August 2007 (IRIN) - Two months after their forced deportation from Iran, Afghan citizen Mohammad Alim and his six-member family still have an unsettled life in Herat Province, western Afghanistan.

They live in a tent in Jami camp, about 5km northwest of Herat city, where his wife Amina, and sister Parween, spend many hours trying to give his three children aged 5-10 an education, as they do not go to school.

"Except for a tent and some kitchen utensils we have not received any assistance," said Alim, 42, adding that his family had never before gone to bed hungry.

Living nearby is another destitute Afghan family. They cannot return to the south of Afghanistan owing to insecurity, lack of work and a variety of other problems.

"All our property and earnings have been left behind in Iran," said Abdul Gafoor, a member of one of the families. "Without shelter and other basic necessities it is very difficult to establish a new life here."

Since April, some 200,000 Afghans living in Iran illegally have been deported to their home country, according to the Afghan government. More on Afghans in Iran.

Zahraa, "I was told to leave my home for good within one hour"

"A lot of deported families are poor, unskilled and in a state of shock; their lives were changed within hours," said Fernando Arocena, country representative for the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

UN aid

In July the UN allocated US$5 million through the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to ease the suffering of thousands of Afghan families deported from Iran.

The fund has enabled different UN agencies to come up with promises of food and non-food humanitarian assistance for the most vulnerable deportees.

"It is a comprehensive response in which the WHO [World Health Organization] provides health assistance, WFP [World Food Programme] distributes food items, UNICEF [UN Children's Fund] helps children and the IOM contributes non-food items and transportation assistance," said Arocena.

The IOM country representative said deported families had received assistance based on their specific needs and that is was a comprehensive response.


However, some deported families who live in transit camps in Herat and Nimruz provinces, bordering Iran, have complained about both the quality and quantity of humanitarian aid.

More than 200,000 Afghans have been deported from Iran in the past five months One angry deportee said: "In this hot weather they [aid agencies] have given us blankets instead of tents, food and drinking water."

Shojauddin Shoja, an adviser in Afghanistan's Ministry of Refugees and Returnees, also criticised aid agencies' humanitarian response.

"Unfortunately we were not consulted in determining what is urgently needed and in what quantities," Shoja told IRIN on 13 August.

The UN and the IOM say they are working closely with Afghan authorities and local NGOs to meet the humanitarian requirements of the most vulnerable deportees.

Diplomatic efforts

In April two Afghan cabinet ministers were sacked for failing to deal with an unexpected influx of tens of thousands of deportees.

Afghan officials have meanwhile stepped up diplomatic efforts to encourage Iran to slow down the deportation of Afghans living and working illegally there.

The issue will be on the agenda of talks between President Karzai and his Iranian counterpart Ahmadinejad, who was in Kabul on 14 August. "President Karzai will ask for a humane, gradual and dignified deportation of Afghans from Iran," Shoja added.

Over 900,000 Afghans are registered as refugees in Iran and are allowed to live and work there, according to the UN Refugee Agency. However, at the same time there are tens of thousands of Afghan nationals in Iran who are there illegally.

... Payvand News - 8/14/07 ... --

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