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