Several hundred thousand were forced to return to Afghanistan due to economic hardships in the country. Credit: Imago, Ton Koene
Several hundred thousand were forced to return to Afghanistan due to economic hardships in the country. Credit: Imago, Ton Koene

The economic struggles in Iran have forced many Afghans to return to their home country. The trend is likely to continue.

As renewed US sanctions sent the Iranian currency into a freefall and boosted inflation, there were 773,125 Afghans who came back to their home country from Iran due to the economic difficulties in 2018. 

That is a 66 percent increase compared to 2017. That trend is likely to continue, according to Laurence Hart, the International Organization for Migration's (IOM) chief of mission in Afghanistan.

"The reason why people are coming back is because of the reduced economic opportunities in the region…including Iran," Hart told AFP.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) estimates that there were between 1.5 and 2 million "undocumented" Afghans in Iran in September, according to government estimates. There were another 1 million that were registered as refugees.

'I will never go back to Iran'

Many of the migrants and refugees who are coming back to Afghanistan are farmers who have been fighting through Afghanistan's worst drought in living memory and seemingly endless amount of conflict in the country.

"There were no jobs in Afghanistan so I had to go to Iran for work," Mohammad Sarwar, a laborer told AFP. He worked in Iran for four months before he was arrested by Iranian police and deported. "If I can make some money here, I will never go back to Iran."

Others returned to Afghanistan with empty pockets, such as 75-year-old Naseruddin, who only gave his first name.

"I was there for five months but the police caught me," he told AFP. "I have no money on me."

Nearly half of the returnees returned penniless as their earnings and jobs fell through. Iran's rial lost half of its value against the US dollar last year after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal.

 

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