AFP: Iran has banned all Afghan and other foreign nationals from a sensitive southeastern border province as part of a drive to deport tens of thousands of illegal migrants, a senior police chief said Tuesday. TEHRAN, May 22, 2007 (AFP) – Iran has banned all Afghan and other foreign nationals from a sensitive southeastern border province as part of a drive to deport tens of thousands of illegal migrants, a senior police chief said Tuesday.
“No legal or illegal foreign nationals are allowed to live, work and travel in any cities of Sistan-Baluchestan province, in line with the scheme to deport foreigners,” deputy police chief Hossein Zolfaghari told state media.
Zolfaghari said “more than 65,000 illegal foreign citizens have been apprehended in Sistan-Baluchestan province”, which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan, since Iran launched the plan to expel illegal immigrants on April 21.
Iran has expelled tens of thousands of Afghans over the past month, mostly from Sistan-Baluchestan, and Interior Minister Mostafa Pour Mohammadi has said Tehran wants one million Afghans to be repatriated by next March.
But Iran has agreed to slow down the process after the speed of the deportations prompted the Afghan parliament to sack two cabinet ministers.
The Iranian interior ministry said it has already repatriated 85,000 illegal Afghans and the United Nations confirmed on Monday more 70,000 had been returned home.
Afghans without proper employment papers are estimated to form half of the two million Afghans, mostly Shiite Hazara or Sunni Persian-speaking Tajiks, who fled the conflict at home and still live in the Islamic republic.
Sistan-Baluchestan is the main narcotics transit route from Afghanistan and Pakistan to the markets of Europe and the Gulf, and a frequent scene of bloody clashes between smugglers and police.
The authorities are also concerned about the emergence of a shadowy Sunni militant group known as Jundallah, which has claimed responsibly of a series of deadly bombings and abductions in the province.