A group of Afghan refugees at the border with Iran

Iranian Official Compares Removing Afghan Refugees to 'Going to War'

Sunday, 05/26/2024

The Deputy Governor of Tehran has warned about the "threatening" presence of undocumented Afghan immigrants in the province, likening their removal to going to war.

"In dealing with illegal residents, we are like our youth who took up arms and went to war, becoming martyrs," Mahdi Babolhavaeji was quoted as saying by state media on Saturday.

Immigration of Afghans has drastically increased in the past one year, with some claiming that up to 10,000 have been entering Iran each day, and the total population of Afghans in the country is approaching 10 million.

Furthermore, the IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News Agency reported in March that a police plan had been initiated to round up and repatriate unauthorized immigrants from Tehran Province. Last week, it was announced that a "special patrol" has been established in Shahr-e Rey, south of Tehran, to identify and collect illegal foreign nationals.

According to Afghan authorities, Iran deported over 20,000 Afghan children last year, many of whom were unaccompanied and without guardians.

The majority of immigrants, both legal and illegal in Iran are Afghans, who are often referred to as “foreign nationals” by officials and the media. According to the 2016 census, over 1.5 million Afghans were in the country, followed by 34,500 Iraqis and 14,320 Pakistanis.

Currently, officials are estimating that the number of Afghan immigrants is between 5 and 8 million.

When the current administration took power in 2021, policies toward Afghan refugees changed. Those opposed to the new measures have referred to them as "open border," with the government's hardliners slamming the concerns as "Afghan Phobia."

The rapidly growing Afghan population in Iran sparked protests on social media and debates in government-controlled media. Many claimed that the government had a hidden agenda in allowing thousands of Afghans to enter the country illegally each day.

Videos from border regions showed crowds of Afghans simply walking into Iran, with some alleging that “a network” quickly helps them find housing and jobs.

The government did not take any steps to slow the influx of refugees, leading to accusations that the Islamic Republic might have sinister plans to use the Persian-speaking Afghans for political or military purposes.

Iran International reported exclusively last year that Unit 400 of the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) recruits Afghans for suicide attacks and collaborates with Al Qaeda to target Israelis.

In Syria, Afghan militias, trained and recruited by the Revolutionary Guard, played an essential role in supporting Bashar al-Assad's government.

However, with the economy suffering, the plan to retain the Afghan population appears to have changed. While the policy and the ideological reasoning behind it are still being defended, there is a backtrack in practice.

A relic of the last remaining justifications, on Friday, IRNA, the Iranian state news agency, reported that “more than one hundred thousand people from the Sunni and Shia communities of Afghan immigrants mourned the loss of” President Ebrahim Raisi and his delegation in the funeral in Mashhad on Thursday.

More News