Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report in late November accusing Iran of violating international law by deporting thousands of Afghan refugees. It is estimated that over two million Afghans currently live in Iran. Thousands more cross the border every year trying to escape their unstable home country.
Iran has been receiving Afghan refugees since conflict erupted in Afghanistan in the early 1980’s. Millions of Afghans fled the increasingly bloody civil war, and at the height of the violence, almost four million Afghanis were living in Iran. After the war, many Afghan citizens tried to return home, but were met with high unemployment and lingering instability. With no solution in sight to the problems remaining in Afghanistan, many citizens returned once again to their refugee countries.
In the HRW report, they claim that in the last few years the Iranian government has been taking steps to reduce opportunities for refugees to enter the country. Recently, Iran has been refusing to register both refugees already living in Afghanistan for some time and those that try to cross the border. HRW has also accused Iran of other violations such as physical abuse, forced labor, unsanitary conditions, and the separation of families. Joe Stork of HRW Middle East Division said, “Iran is deporting thousands of Afghans to a country where the danger is both real and serious.
Iran has an obligation to hear these people’s refugee claims rather than sweeping them up and tossing them over the border to Afghanistan. The report cites personal accounts given by refugees who were separated from their families and sent back across the border.
When they are not being deported, provinces within Iran are passing laws to refugee access to residence permits. Without access to the proper documents to show residence, this puts refugees at risk for deportation. If refugees are sent back, their options for what they can do next are severely limited and many are stuck in a country that is still experiencing violence and political instability.
– Colleen Eckvahl