Iran and Turkey deport more than 240,000 Afghan refugees

November 19, 2022
Save the Children estimates that nearly 50% of Afghanistan’s population — 19.7 million people — are going hungry. Image: Canva

The Iranian and Turkish governments have deported more than 240,000 Afghan refugees this year, in violation of international law.

A United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees report, released in September, said that about 65% of Afghan refugees who recently entered Iran have been deported.

Amnesty International reported that Iranian security forces have shot Afghan refugees attempting to cross the border. “Afghans who do manage to enter Iran or Turkey are routinely arbitrarily detained, and subjected to torture and other ill-treatment before being unlawfully and forcibly returned,” the report said.

Afghans who manage to cross Iran and try to enter Turkey face similar human rights abuses from Turkish forces.

About 100,000 Afghan refugees have entered Turkey this year, according to Turkey’s interior ministry. About two-thirds were deported on chartered and scheduled flights. Ali Hekmat, an aid worker in Turkey helping Afghan refugees, said that many refugees are also driven back to the border from eastern Turkey and into Iran.

Despite not recognising the Taliban as the official government of Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey have continued to maintain trade and diplomatic ties with the country.

After returning to power in August last year, the Taliban promised an amnesty for officials and security forces of the former government. However, newspapers and human rights organisations, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have reported widespread abuses against journalists, ethnic minorities and women by Taliban forces since then.

Violence against Hazaras — an ethnic group targeted by genocide, land confiscation, slavery and persecution since 1891 — has escalated since the Taliban’s return to power.

The prolonged United States war in Afghanistan created millions of refugees — there are about 2.3 million registered Afghan refugees. 

The humanitarian crisis worsened after the US’ withdrawal and seizure of Afghanistan’s foreign currency reserves. The US government instructed the World Bank to cut US$2 billion in international aid. The US Agency for International Development, the Asian Development Bank and International Monetary Fund also withdrew support.

NGO Save the Children estimates that nearly 50% of Afghanistan’s population — 19.7 million people — are going hungry.

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