In the wake of President Joe Biden’s abrupt departure from Afghanistan, thousands of Afghan residents have fled the country in hopes of finding refuge in nearby countries and even as far away as Europe. A new report shows that Afghanistan’s next-door neighbor is not as welcoming to these migrants as the Afghans may have hoped. The Islamic Republic of Iran has recently begun stepping up its deportation to 20,000-30,000 per week, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.
“Afghans are streaming across the border into Iran in accelerating numbers, driven by desperation,” the AP stated. “Since the Taliban takeover in mid-August, Afghanistan’s economic collapse has accelerated, robbing millions of work and leaving them unable to feed their families. In the past three months, more than 300,000 people have crossed illegally into Iran, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council, and more are coming at the rate of 4,000 to 5,000 a day.”
As a result, Iran has deported more than 1 million Afghan migrants this year and already has about three times that number of Afghans who have come in the last decade to stay:
… a significant portion of migrants likely intend to stay in Iran, which is struggling to shut its doors. It already hosts more than 3 million Afghans who fled their homeland during the past decades of turmoil.
Iran is stepping up deportations, sending 20,000 or 30,000 Afghans back every week. This year, Iran deported more than 1.1 million Afghans as of Nov. 21 — 30% higher than the total in all of 2020, according to the International Organization for Migration. Those deported often try again, over and over.
The AP also noted that since the Taliban takeover, many men have abandoned their homes and villages, leaving women and children defenseless. The human smuggling industry has been booming but migrants are expected to pay upfront as a result of lack of opportunity:
One smuggler in Herat — a woman involved in the business for two decades — said that before the Taliban takeover, she was transporting 50 or 60 people a week into Iran, almost all single men. Since the August takeover, she moves around 300 people a week, including women and children.
“The country is destroyed so people have to leave,” she said, speaking on condition she not be named because of her work. “I feel like I’m doing the right thing. If some poor person asks me, I can’t refuse them. I ask God to help me help them.”
She charges the equivalent of almost $400 per person, but only about $16 up front, with the rest paid after the migrant finds work. The pay-later system is common in Herat, a sign that there are so many migrants, smugglers can accept some risk that some will be unable to pay. Along the way, smugglers pass out bribes to Taliban, Pakistani and Iranian border guards to turn a blind eye, she said.
The report suggested that while the U.S. has accepted thousands of migrants, the fear held by many Republicans that Afghan women and children were not receiving the help they truly needed may be warranted. It raises new worries about the kind of men who abandoned their families and villages post-U.S. departure that have been welcomed into America.
In October, GOP lawmakers demanded “answers from the Biden administration following reports that hundreds of Afghan evacuees are leaving U.S. military bases before being fully vetted.”
“Afghans selected to board American military planes in Kabul did not complete the long-established interagency vetting processes shared across the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services,” a letter sent to the Biden administration from the Republicans said.
“Instead, much of the vetting is occurring on military bases on U.S. soil,” the letter continued. “Furthermore, the State Department’s inability to facilitate or process SIV applicants on-ground, those that aided American operations in Afghanistan, fails our partners and breaks promises made to those who put themselves and their families at significant risk to aid U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.”
Shortly after, the Biden administration reportedly blocked a bipartisan group of representatives from seeing an Afghan refugee camp run by the U.S. government, raising suspicions even further.
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