Photo: ISNA

Iran Arrests Thousands of Foreigners in Border Region 

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN – Iranian authorities say they have arrested thousands of foreign nationals from the country’s border region with Afghanistan and Pakistan in the last three days.

According to the Iranian ISNA news agency, the deputy commander of Iran’s Sistan and Baluchistan Border Guard, 2,285 individuals have been arrested in the last three days. these individuals, authorities say, were attempting to cross into Afghanistan and Pakistan, and were arrested following decisive actions by the country’s border guards.

He emphasized that foreign nationals must adhere to legal procedures for entry, stay, and departure from Iran; otherwise, they will face appropriate measures and be returned to their home countries 

In 2023, the Islamic Republic officially became the second-largest host country for refugees in the world. The country hosts one of the largest populations of refugees from Afghanistan. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that approximately 4.5 million Afghan immigrants reside in Iran.

After the Taliban takeover of the country in August 2021, tens of thousands of people crossed the western border to take refuge in Iran, escaping retaliation, instability, and economic meltdown. According to a UN report, more than 1 million Afghan citizens have arrived in Iran since 2021.

In recent months, Iran has joined Pakistan, another neighbour of Afghanistan, in forcibly deporting undocumented refugees back to the Taliban-controlled country. According to the most recent figures given by Iranian authorities, more than half a million people have been forcibly deported to Afghanistan in 2023.

In the last two weeks alone, the Islamic Republic has deported more than 20,000 undocumented Afghan refugees attempting to enter the country via the Dogharun border, returning them to impoverished Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Pakistan, Afghanistan’s southern neighbor, initiated a nationwide operation on November 1 to deport more than 1.7 million Afghan refugees residing illegally in the country. An estimated 10,000 people are returning to Afghanistan through the Chaman and Torkham borders each day.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), over half a million Afghan refugees have been deported to Afghanistan since mid-September 2023.

The mass deportation of Afghan refugees from neighboring countries takes place amidst a severe humanitarian crisis in the country. hundreds of thousands of returnees arrive to makeshift tent villages on the border regions. Humanitarian agencies have reported a shortage of tents and other basic necessities for those returning to Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, humanitarian agencies have been grappling with a funding shortfall for the past two years, as global attention is primarily focused on ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine. The UN says that this severe funding shortfall is one of the worst in recent years, significantly hindering the organization’s capacity to deliver aid to the most vulnerable individuals including the recent returnees from neighboring countries.