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Iran to Rein in Illegal Afghans
Economy, Domestic Economy

Iran to Rein in Illegal Afghans

Employment of foreign nationals, particularly undocumented Afghan immigrants, should be restricted due to the large number of unemployed Iranians looking for work, an official said on Monday.

As Iranians continue to face trouble in the labor market, 3.5 million Afghan immigrants are working in housing sector and livestock farming, 50 percent of those are reported to be employed without work permits, Seyed Taghi Ghaemi, head of foreign nationals’ employment department told MNA on Monday.

“One thirds of the illegal Afghan migrants live in Tehran and only 315 thousand of them have interim work permits,” Ghaemi said.

The reported number of legal and illegal migrants in the country confirms that Iran plays host to one of the largest refugee populations anywhere in the world. The knock on effect of this unofficial workforce is that Iran’s economy struggles with unfair cheap competition.

Many Afghans are quite willing to do many difficult and unwanted jobs with wages paid in cash-in-hand. They also suffer because being an illegal immigrant means no guarantees on wages or contracts with employers – which some employers prefer as they enlarge their own profits.

As a result, in the past two decades, illegal Afghan immigrants have pushed Iranian workers aside by occupying many vacancies in specific sectors like construction, farming, cleaning and gardening.

“Some 2 million jobs are occupied by foreign nationals,” Ghaemi said on behalf of the minister of labor, Ali Rabiee.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in Iran increased to 10.70 percent in the second quarter of 2014 from 10.50 percent in the first quarter of 2014, with over 2.5 million nationals looking for work.

The government has said it seeks to tackle the problem by tightening procedures and creating new laws on illegal employees and punishing employers illegally harboring the migrants, however the administration has been criticized for its mismanagement and lax supervision over the issue.

“Foreign nationals take the advantage of subsidies on health, fuel, education, and transportation; therefore, it is crucial to establish offices to manage foreign nationals affairs,” he said.

Officials are asking the government to encourage both illegal and legal Afghan refugees to go home.

Afghan migration to Iran is as old as the Islamic Republic. Iran opened its border gates to millions of fleeing Afghans from the Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s and the subsequent Afghan civil war.

Between 2010 and 2011, a total of 24,000 Afghan refugees left Iran and returned to Afghanistan at the request of the Iranian government. In 2012, around 173,000 illegal Afghan immigrants were deported by Iran’s border patrol. By the end of 2013, more than 103,086 were deported back through Iran’s eastern borders as the war in Afghanistan continues to wind down.

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