In recent years, Iran has faced the issue of Afghan immigration to this country. Due to the unfavorable security and economic situation in Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of Afghans have sought refuge in Iran. But in recent years, the Iranian government has decided to deport some Afghan immigrants who do not have legal residence documents in Iran. This policy of expelling Afghan immigrants has brought different reactions inside and outside of Iran.
The Iranian government is constantly deporting undocumented Afghans from this country. This decision has put those Afghan immigrants who were already living in this country without legal travel documents and those Afghans who entered Iran after the political situation changed in 2021 at risk of deportation. Additionally, there are many Afghans who use Iran's soil to reach Turkey and, from there, other European countries.
Examining the legal documents related to the refugees and residence of Afghans in Iran and the laws related to asylum and their residence status can help to better understand the reasons for their deportation. These reasons can include security, economic, social, and political reasons. The Iranian government may have decided to deport immigrants without legal residence documents due to reasons such as the inability to create suitable living conditions for immigrants or other political reasons.
The policy of deporting Afghan refugees from Iran is a decision that has been put on the agenda of the Iranian government and has been accelerated more than ever in recent weeks. Following the acceleration of the deportation process of Afghan refugees in Pakistan and increasing pressure on them in Iran, in the three days before October 19, 2023, about 13 thousand people from these two countries have been deported to Afghanistan. It has been said that nearly 5,000 people were deported from Iran in one day. These are mostly people who did not have legal residency documents and were forcibly deported. Also, some of these people have received help, including cash, after registering at the border crossings from the immigration offices.
Recently, Iran's Interior Minister Ahmad Wahidi said that illegal Afghan immigrants should leave Iran. Mr. Wahidi said that we organize immigrants who are legal and have visas. Iran's interior minister added that creating conflict between Iranian people and Afghan immigrants is the work of hypocrites. This high-ranking Iranian official also said that Iran helped these people and gave them facilities so that their students could go to school. But some people try to turn the good relations between the people of the two countries into a challenge, and this is the work of the enemies of the two countries.
Previously, there were reports of persecution of immigrants in Iran. Iran's interior minister had previously said that the presence of Afghan immigrants does not pose a security challenge for Iran.
Iran has hosted a large number of Afghan refugees since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, and about 3 million still live in the country. The increase in insecurity along the border of the two countries this year has intensified the tensions between Afghanistan and Iran. In the past, it has been seen that some Iranian people on social media, in defense of the decision to deport Afghans, have accused Afghan citizens of being involved in social and urban disorder in this country.
Before this, following the announcement of the plan to deport more than one million Afghan refugees from Pakistan, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in a joint statement dated October 7, 2023, asked the government of Pakistan to cancel the implementation of this plan. But it remains to be seen when the reaction of international institutions toward the expulsion of Afghan refugees will become a reality. Previously, the joint statement of the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees regarding the expulsion of Afghans from Pakistan stated: "Afghanistan is going through a severe humanitarian crisis with several human rights challenges, especially for women and girls." The organization added: "Such plans will have serious consequences for all those who have been forced to leave the country and may face serious security risks upon their return."
A large portion of the refugees facing deportation include hundreds of thousands of families who fled Afghanistan after the political situation changed in August 2021 and imposed extensive restrictions on women's education and work.
UNHCR also grants $375 upon entry to every Afghan who voluntarily returns to their country. They have also facilitated more than 4.3 million voluntary returns over a 20-year period from 2002 to 2022, according to UN figures.
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