Independent reporting on human rights, environmental and conflict issues

Expulsion from Iran

© Anne Holmes

I spent the day at the border with Iran near Herat in Western Afghanistan, observing the constant trickle of deportees arriving empty-handed. They were all men, mostly in their twenties and thirties, who had been arrested and jailed before being forced to board a bus headed for their country of origin. All the men I spoke to said they had been deprived of food for the duration of their stay in prison, which did not exceed three days. One man I spoke with had not received his pay for an entire month’s work when he was arrested. A few weeks ago the Afghan government was still providing free transportation from the border to the city of Herat, but now the deportees must fend for themselves.

In May of this year the Iranian government began rounding up Afghan immigrants reportedly living in Iran illegally, and sending them back to the border in absence of their possessions and families. They intend to expel 1 million by the end of the year. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) official I spoke to at the border said approximately 80,000 have already arrived, some of whom complained that their official Iranian residency papers had been ripped up by police upon their arrest.

At the beginning of the crisis when there was a heavy press presence at the border, Iranian officials dressed as UNHCR officials were reported to have boarded the buses to ask if any of the deportees had been mistreated while in prison. Those who said yes were removed from the bus and sent to another border where there were no journalists.

Some of the deportees said that while they were in prison, some people came and advised them to go and arm themselves, join the Taliban and fight against the Americans. It is, indeed curious that they should expel mainly young men, of fighting age, and not their wives and children. The border crossing in the southern province of Nimruz, however, has seen scores of Afghan families returning against their will as part of the Iranian expulsion campaign. This area is essentially lawless territory on both sides of the border and there is a lack of journalists covering the story. I have not yet been able to obtain data from UNHRC about their records in that province.

For the last two years Iranian consulates in Afghanistan have issued an average of 2,000 visas a day. Historically, Iran absorbs more refugees than any country in the world, but with a failing economy and heavy international sanctions, it has become more and more difficult to handle the burden of immigrant populations. Afghans are not treated very well in Iran and tend to get blamed for all the country’s ills. Still, many enjoy a better quality of life than they would in their own country, where security issues jeopardize one’s general safety, jobs are hard to come by, and pay is insufficient. Many of the deportees are simply waiting a few days and crossing the border back into Iran to rejoin their families, or look for work.


3 Responses to “Expulsion from Iran”

  1. Hola amigo, me gustaria que me dijeras en que lugar podria suscribirme para obtener las ultimas entradas de tu blog, me gusta mucho. gracias

  2. Please let me know if you’re looking for a author for your weblog. You have some really great articles and I believe I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d love to write some articles for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine. Please blast me an e-mail if interested. Thank you!

Leave a Reply