KABUL, 17 February 2008 (IRIN) - The Afghan
government has once again called upon the Iranian government to suspend its
deportation of thousands of Afghans living in Iran illegally until after winter
to avoid a humanitarian crisis. |
"We do not have the capacity to receive a large number of deportees from Iran,"
Shir Mohammad Etibari, minister for refugees and returnees, told IRIN in the
Afghan capital, Kabul, on 17 February. "We will face a humanitarian crisis if
Iran resumes a mass deportation of Afghans."
Iran deported over 360,000 undocumented Afghans in 2007, which caused an
unanticipated humanitarian emergency in some parts of Afghanistan, aid agencies
With the onset of cold winter months, which are already responsible for the
deaths of hundreds of local Afghan residents, the country's capacity to absorb
returnees is limited, Etibari said.
In 2008, more than 17,000 Afghans have been deported from Iran, according to
Afghanistan's Ministry of Refugees and Returnees Affairs (MoRRA). At least 7,000
of them, mostly single males, were deported since 16 January, according to MoRRA
and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), despite Iranian assurances on that day to
suspend expulsions until spring.
Afghan officials have requested an urgent meeting with their Iranian
counterparts to discuss this issue, Sultan Ahmad Baheen, a spokesman at the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters on 14 February.
"We are still looking forward to the Iranians giving us a date for the meeting,"
Baheen said on 17 February.
No one at the Iranian Embassy in Kabul was available for comment.
Up to 2 million Afghans in Iran
UNHCR has helped more than 1.6 million Afghans repatriate from Iran
About 900,000 Afghans are registered refugees in
Iran and are therefore allowed to stay an unspecified period, UNHCR said.
In addition, there are an estimated one million Afghans living in Iran who lack
refugee status, according to Iranian media. Iranian authorities consider these
Afghans to be illegal migrants who should be deported.
The Afghan government and the UN have acknowledged that "Iran is within its
right" to deport illegal Afghan migrants, but have also called for the
deportation to be "gradual".
Slow voluntary repatriation
Fewer Afghan refugees are expected to voluntarily repatriate from Iran in 2008
than the 7,000 that returned to Afghanistan from that country in 2007, UNHCR
"The low scale of voluntary return from Iran can imply that Afghan refugees
receive good hospitality there and are not forced to leave," said Ahmad Nader
Farhad, a UNCHR spokesman in Kabul.
A worsening security situation in Afghanistan, lack of employment opportunities
and poor access to services such as health, education, drinking water and
electricity are some of the major reasons which have contributed to a shrinking
rate of Afghan refugee repatriation from Iran and Pakistan, found a report by
Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission in August 2007.
The above article comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2008
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