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Nearly 340,000 Afghans Repatriated from Iran Since January: IOM (tolonews.com)

Numbers from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) indicate that nearly 340,000 Afghan nationals who were lacking legal documents have repatriated from the Islamic Republic of Iran since the start of the current year.

“According to the Border Monitoring Team of the Directorate of Refugees and Repatriation (DoRR), a total of 11,708 Afghans returned from Iran through the Nimroz (Milak) and Herat (Islam Qala) borders between 14-20 June 2020, a 23% decrease from the previous week (15,215). 3,290 persons returned voluntarily and 8,418 were deported. Since January 1, 2020, the total number of undocumented returnees from Iran is 339,742 individuals. IOM provided post-arrival humanitarian assistance to 1,620 (14%) of all undocumented Afghans from Iran at its Transit Centers in Herat and Nimroz during the past week. IOM is highlighting the significant increase in deportations of Afghans from Iran in recent weeks,” the IOM said in a statement on Tuesday.

But, the figure from Pakistan is only 1,800 people during this period.

The IOM statement also said: “According to the Directorate of Refugees and Repatriation’s Border Monitoring Team, 1,871 undocumented Afghans have returned from Pakistan since January 1, 2020. The Afghan frontier with Pakistan at Spin Boldak (closed on March 2) and at Torkham (closed on March 16) is closed due to coronavirus related restrictions however exemptions have been granted for the return of Afghan and Pakistani nationals from Afghanistan and Pakistan back to their respective countries. As of June 22, commercial vehicles are permitted to cross in both directions Sunday through Friday. On Saturday (June 20) a total of 25 undocumented Afghans were deported or returned from Pakistan through the Torkham border. Passenger movements of stranded Afghans and Pakistanis are officially allowed once a week (Saturday). On June 20, 5,762 Afghans returned to Afghanistan and 440 Pakistanis went to Pakistan via the Torkham border. The Chaman-Spin Boldak border remains closed for pedestrian traffic.”

The spread of the coronavirus in Iran and the devaluation of the Iranian currency, as well as declining sources of income for immigrants in Iran, are among the main reasons for the increase in the repatriation of the Afghan citizens from Iran.

Zabiullah is an Afghan migrant who spent 7 years in Iran. During his stay he was expelled for several times because of a lack of legal documents.

Zabiullah said that unemployment forced him to go to Iran.

“Iran is not like Afghanistan where you can move freely between two cities, there are checkpoints on the way and they ask for documents,” said Zabiullah.

“Most of the time he (Zabiullah) had no job there, if there was no work, then there was no money,” said Masooma, Zabiullah’s sister.

“My father called me to come back, he was infected with COVID-19, also the employment situation was not good because of the devaluing of the currency,” added Zabiullah.

This comes as Afghanistan and Iran in a joint statement–following a recent visit by Afghan acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Hanif Atmar to Tehran–agreed to finalize a comprehensive document on strategic cooperation between the two countries within the next three months.

Atmar’s visit comes after two incidents involving the mistreatment and deaths of Afghan migrants in Iran. In early May, Iranian border guards allegedly detained and tortured Afghan migrants and forced them to jump into a river that runs along the two countries, causing many to drown. Then a second incident occurred in which three Afghans were killed when Iranian police shot at a vehicle in the city of Yazd, and the vehicle hit a guardrail and started on fire, killing three Afghans and wounding others.

The two incidents sparked many protests within the country and abroad.

“In the coming months, the high-level delegations (bilateral committees) will make mutual trips between Afghanistan and Iran if there is a necessity for it to help make sure these agreements are implemented,” said Geran Hewad, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

According to Afghan officials, during the trip, the Afghan delegation emphasized the need for safety of Afghan refugees in Iran, and for respect for their human rights and better living opportunities.

“This is good for the financial affairs of the Afghan refugees. We hope that the agreements sealed between the two sides are implemented in a sincere manner,” said Atiq Ramin, head of parliament’s external affairs commission.

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