AFP: The Afghan foreign ministry said it had summoned the top Iranian diplomat in Kabul to complain about the expulsion of thousands of Afghans over the winter and call for an immediate halt. KABUL (AFP) The Afghan foreign ministry said it had summoned the top Iranian diplomat in Kabul to complain about the expulsion of thousands of Afghans over the winter and call for an immediate halt.
Nearly 9,000 Afghans in Iran have been illegally deported in the past two weeks, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The ministry said it summoned the acting Iranian ambassador, Sayed Mohayaddin Najafi, to express “serious concerns about forced and mass repatriation of Afghan refugees during the freezing months of winter.”
Officials called on Tehran to immediately halt the repatriation “because we don’t have capacity to accept large groups of refugees, particularly in winter months,” said the ministry, which called the expulsions a “human tragedy.”
It was the second time in just over two months that Afghanistan has summoned the Iranian representative on the issue.
During his meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Kabir Farahi, Najafi was told the forced repatriations were against agreements between the neighbours, the ministry said.
The two countries signed an agreement that the return of registered Afghan refugees from Iran must be voluntary and conducted in a safe and dignified way. But the agreement does not cover unregistered Afghans.
“So far this year nearly 9,000 Afghan nationals who were illegally present were deported from Iran,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman Mohammad Nader Farhad told AFP.
The UNHCR has appealed to Iran “for a more dignified process of deportation of illegal Afghans” given the harsh winter weather, he said.
Iran estimates there are about 1.5 million Afghans illegally living within its borders with another 900,000 there as registered refugees.
Most of the illegal Afghans are young men looking for work. Last year 365,000 were returned from Iran while around 7,000 registered refugees came home voluntarily, Farhad said.
Iranian authorities this month warned Afghans without documents that they faced arrest and detention for up to five years if they did not leave.
Since 2002, around four million Afghans have returned to their country after fleeing during years of war and drought. It is one of the world’s biggest repatriation drives.
There are still two million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan.