More Than 700,000 Afghans Leave Iran

Iran News - - FRONTPAGE -

GENEVA (Reuters) - More than 700,000 un­doc­u­mented Afghans have re­turned from Iran this year as the Ira­nian econ­omy tight­ens, with a knock-on ef­fect on the Afghan econ­omy, ac­cord­ing to data from the U.N.’s mi­gra­tion agency.

In a re­port cov­er­ing the pe­riod up to Dec. 1, the In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion said a to­tal of 752,325 Afghans had re­turned from Iran and Pak­istan, in­clud­ing 721,633 from Iran.

“Un­doc­u­mented re­turns from Iran in par­tic­u­lar are see­ing a mas­sive in­crease over pre­vi­ous years, largely driven by re­cent po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic is­sues in Iran in­clud­ing mas­sive cur­rency de­val­u­a­tion,” the IOM re­port said.

De­mand for Afghan la­bor in Iran’s in­for­mal econ­omy had dras­ti­cally fallen, it added.

“As all Afghans typ­i­cally send home their earn­ings in the form of monthly re­mit­tances, the Afghan econ­omy it­self, al­ready ev­i­dent in the drought af­fected prov­inces of Herat, Badghis and Ghor, is suf­fer­ing di­rect and im­me­di­ate ef­fects.”

Ira­nian me­dia re­ports say many of the Afghans had re­turned or were seek­ing to en­ter Turkey to reach Europe after the fall of the Ira­nian cur­rency, which has lost about 70 per­cent of its value this year.

Iran emerged in early 2016 from years of global sanc­tions un­der a deal with world pow­ers that curbed its dis­puted nu­clear pro­gram.

But U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump with­drew the United States from the deal in May, call­ing it flawed to Iran’s ad­van­tage, and reim­posed far-reach­ing U.S. sanc­tions in phases, with the most dam­ag­ing oil and bank­ing penal­ties tak­ing ef­fect on Nov. 5.

Jan Ege­land, head of the Nor­we­gian Refugee Coun­cil, told Reuters that in­creas­ing U.S. pres­sure on Iran would cause prob­lems for Afghanistan. “The Trump sanc­tions will put the Ira­nian econ­omy into a void, and is do­ing that. (The peo­ple) who will first lose a grip on their ex­is­tence are the Afghan reg­is­tered and un­reg­is­tered refugees and mi­grants,” he said.

Last month the top U.N. hu­man­i­tar­ian of­fi­cial in Afghanistan, Toby Lanzer, told re­porters in Geneva that the U.N. had ex­pected up to 700,000 Afghans to re­turn from Pak­istan this year, but very few had made the move, while the re­turns from Iran took the U.N. by sur­prise.

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