QUESTION: What information do we have and what is our reaction to a UNHCR report that large numbers of Afghan refugees are being deported from Iran in the last month?
ANSWER: The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that, as of two weeks ago, Iranian authorities had deported approximately 55,000 Afghans living and working illegally in Iran. The deportees were economic migrants without proper documentation. UNHCR reports there are approximately two million Afghans in Iran, of whom more than one million live there illegally; 920,000 are documented refugees who are allowed to live and work in Iran.
According to UNHCR, there have been very few individuals holding valid refugee documents among the deportees. The registered refugee population is not being targeted for deportation. Registered refugees are ensured voluntary return through the Tripartite Agreement among the UNHCR and the Governments of Afghanistan and Iran.
The United States is concerned that a large influx of Afghan migrants is increasing the need for humanitarian assistance in western Afghanistan. The Government of Afghanistan is coordinating with the Afghan Red Crescent Society, UNHCR, the World Food Program, and the International Organization for Migration to provide food, medical assistance, and temporary shelter to deportees.
The United States supports the UNHCR and the Government of Afghanistan in their calls to ensure that Afghans living and working illegally in Iran are deported in a gradual, orderly and humane manner. At the same time, the U.S. is encouraged that the Governments of Afghanistan and Iran discussed on this issue on May 20th.