Iran is deporting around 5,000 refugees a day back to Afghanistan, an Afghan official said. In the last three days, Iran has deported Afghan refugees living illegally in the Islamic republic through the Zaranj border crossing in southwestern Nimroz province, said Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary, AP reported.
Afghanistan lacks shelter, water and food to accommodate the influx, and Iranian authorities should “show a little patience on the refugee issue,” Bashary said.
About 2 million Afghans live as refugees in Iran, having fled their homes during decades of ruinous conflict.
The decision to deport the refugees comes a week after Gen. Peter Pace, the top US military commander, said US forces recently intercepted Iranian-made mortars and other weaponry in Afghanistan. However, it is not clear if they were shipped directly from Iran. But Iran strongly denied the US claims.
Bashary said the two issues are not linked, and that their ministry has no proof of Iranian-made weapons showing up in Afghanistan.
Earlier an Iranian official announced that foreign immigrants without residential permits have until April 20 to leave the country.
Brigadier General Ali Rahnama, director general of Iran’s Police Department for Foreign Immigrant Affairs, added that the police would intensify its campaign against illegal foreigners after the deadline.
The term ‘illegal foreigners’ largely refers to Afghan refugees in Iran, some of whom have lived in the country for almost three decades.
“Based on the plan, since April 21, illegal Afghan immigrants will be arrested and deported to Afghanistan within 48 hours,” he said.
Rahnama further said that to accelerate the repatriation process, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees will pay $100 for each Afghan who voluntarily returns to Afghanistan.
The Interior Ministry had called on Afghan refugees holding long-term orange exit permits and special ID cards to re-register for voluntary repatriation from April 9.