over 4,000 Afghan refugees were deported from Iran in recent weeks
over 4,000 Afghan refugees were deported from Iran in recent weeks

Afghan refugees are being forced back to their war-torn homeland from neighboring countries, mostly from Iran. A recent UN report says over 4,000 Afghan refugees were deported from Iran last week alone.

Afghan refugees returning from Iran DWS Tanha

Returning to an uncertain future

The International Organization of Migration (IOM) has reported that between 19 and 25 November, thousands of undocumented Afghan refugees returned to Afghanistan from Iran. The IOM said the mass-migration is being caused by deteriorating protection space in Iran. Here hundreds of Afghan refugees are seen crossing the border at Islam Qala, Herat Province in western Afghanistan.

Afghan refugees return from Iran

A lonely road

According to the IOM, 89 percent of the refugees deported between 19 and 25 November were individuals, out of which the majority were single men. Only seven single female deportees were registered during this time.

An Afghan refugee woman returning from Iran

Protecting the old, sick and vulnerable

Afghan migrants are facing harsh winter temperatures. The IOM provided post-arrival assistance to over 750 vulnerable groups from November 19-25. Included were 127 unaccompanied children, 80 people who needed medical assistance, and 15 unaccompanied elderly. According to the UN, last week 90,000 displaced people received humanitarian assistance and winterization support across Afghanistan.

This Afghan refugee said he was beaten in Iran before being deported

Mistreatment in Iran?

This man told DW that his legs were beaten with a spiked stick in Iran before he was deported. He said he had proper documents to work in Iran, but was sent back anyway. Mohammad Afkhami Rashidi, an official at the Iranian consulate in Herat, told DW that Iran has "no aggressive policies against Afghan refugees being deported" and only wants to "legally regulate the residence of foreigners." 

This man reported he was forced to work to pay for his return departure

Left out in the cold with no way home
This unnamed deportee told DW that he was held at a detention center for 12 days and forced to work and pay for his departure. "It's cold and I am freezing," he said. "In the end I sold my phone and they let me out. Now I am here at the border and I do not even have money to drive to my own province."


Afghan refugees return from Iran

Refugees as political pawns?

Afghan refugees say host countries use them as "political pressure." The UN said in a report that return rates are influenced by a "number of political and security factors" in Afghanistan and neighboring host countries. Iran, Afghanistan and the UN have an agreement saying that returns should be "voluntary, supportive and timely" and that "returnees" should have access to "basic services." 

Afghan refugees return from Iran

Coming back to a tough life

The IOM estimates that in 2017, a total of approximately 560,000 Afghans could return from Pakistan and Iran. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a recent report that 900,000 internally displaced people are currently living in camps in inhumane conditions across Afghanistan and around 3.3 million Afghans will need humanitarian assistance next year. 


Authors: Reza Shirmohammadi, Shoib Tanha Shokran

First published: December 6, 2017

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