The number of Afghans returning from Iran and refugees being deported from the neighboring country has significantly increased over the past two weeks amid protests in Iranian cities over the death of a young woman in police custody last month.
Since the takeover of power by the Taliban in August last year, hundreds of thousands of Afghan citizens have fled to Iran, through legal and illegal routes – either for safety reasons, jobs or to travel to European countries.
But the number of return refugees has steadily increased to 3,000 a day over the past two weeks, a Taliban official in Islam Qala border city, Hazratullah Zaeem, told Amu on Wednesday.
He said that at least 1,000 of these return refugees had traveled to Iran with legal documents.
A manager at the refugees and repatriation office in Herat, Amrullah Habibi, said on Wednesday that in the past, the number of returnees from Iran was around 300 a day. “Now, it has increased to 1,500 to 2,000 people a day,” he added.
The refugees returning from Iran spoke about the mistreatment of Afghans at the hands of Iranian forces – many of them saying they had “a bitter experience” there.
“We went to Iran for work after facing hopelessness in our country, but we were deported, and we paid a lot of money,” said Rustam, a resident of Baghlan who returned home on Wednesday.
“We were beaten by Iranian forces. We were insulted. Now that we have returned to the country, we ask the government to provide job opportunities,” he added.
Another refugee, Hassan, who is from Takhar, said he faced similar problems. According to him he entered Iran via Pakistan but was arrested once in Iran.
“We spent one tough week, we were beaten up and then we were deported,” said Hassan.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), meanwhile, said that Afghans approaching the agency are in urgent need of protection and assistance, especially food and shelter.
This comes after Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Wednesday during a meeting with Pakistan’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Sadiq Khan, that his country is ready to hold a special meeting of foreign ministers of the region in order to address Afghanistan’s issues.
Referring to the presence of over 4.5 million Afghan refugees in Iran, Abdollahian noted that more than 1.5 million of these refugees entered Iran after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.