AFP: Iran has expelled about 100,000 Afghans in nearly six weeks in a drive to deport those who are in the country illegally, the UN refugee agency in Afghanistan said Tuesday. KABUL, June 5, 2007 (AFP) – Iran has expelled about 100,000 Afghans in nearly six weeks in a drive to deport those who are in the country illegally, the UN refugee agency in Afghanistan said Tuesday.
About 1,000 were now returning every day through two border points, the UNHCR’s representative in Afghanistan, Salvatore Lombardo, told reporters.
“We are talking of approximately 100,000 Afghans being deported since April 21,” he said.
“The crisis had at the very beginning a very high number of people being deported. It has decreased in the past couple of weeks. What we see now is probably approximately 1,000 deportees per day from the two crossing points.”
Tehran has said it wants one million Afghans repatriated by next March.
Afghanistan has asked its neighbour to halt the returns, saying it does not have the capacity to accommodate a large number of people at once.
The United States has also voiced concern over the flood of returning deportees becoming a burden.
Anger in Afghanistan about the forced returns has cost the refugees minister his job, with parliament voting that Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta should also be sacked — a decision nullified by the Supreme Court.
Lombardo said most of the nearly 100,000 returnees were single men who had been in Iran for short periods of time and returned to their homes in Afghanistan relatively quickly.
Returned families faced more difficulties because they had often been outside of the country for longer periods and were not always able to return to their places of origin, he said.
The deportations were quick and sometimes not “according to all the standards,” he said, without elaborating.
There are about 920,000 registered Afghan refugees in Iran, which took in hundreds of thousands of Afghans during the country’s years of war.
As Afghanistan’s western neighbour has stepped up the return of Afghans, so has Pakistan with four refugees camps — home to 220,000 Afghans — to be closed by June 15.
The occupants will have to return to Afghanistan or move to other camps within Pakistan.
There are more than 2.15 million registered Afghans living in Pakistan, according to the refugee agency. The majority are women, children and old people who have lived in Pakistan for more than two decades.
Since 2002 more than three million Afghans have returned home with the agency’s help, including more than 220,000 so far this year, it said.