Afghan Refugees May Face New Limits

Afghan Refugees May Face New Limits Afghan Refugees May Face New Limits

An interior ministry official said the government is considering new restrictions for Afghan refugees in Iran.

Aziz Kazemi, the director general of the Bureau of Aliens and Foreign Immigrant Affairs (BAFIA), said "Plans are being discussed, but so far nothing has been finalized," IRNA reported on Monday.  Afghan immigrants in the country will "face no new restriction by the end of the current Iranian calendar year," which concludes on March 20, he was quoted as saying.

A plan seeking to ban Afghan immigrants from residing in the northern province of Mazandaran has been successful and no Afghans live in the major tourist province. As per law Afghans are banned from living in nine Iranian provinces, mostly in the northern regions.

On December 13, the government agreed to extend temporary visas for 450,000 Afghan refugees to allow them to stay for another six months.

According to an estimate by the Afghan government, 760,000 Afghan refugees who have no documents live in Iran. Based on the new arrangement, 310,000 must leave upon the expiry of their temporary visas.   

The United Nations has estimated that there are almost one million registered Afghan refugees in Iran, most of whom arrived before 2001 when US-led troops toppled the medieval Taliban regime.

But those who arrived afterward are required to have their permits assessed on an individual basis, making it harder for them to obtain the paperwork needed to be officially registered, according to the UN refugee agency.  Since 2002, the UN agency has helped more than 900,000 Afghans return home from Iran, but the number has dropped and next year barely 20,000 people are expected to be voluntarily repatriated, a fraction compared with previous years.

In light of increasing economic ills and lack of jobs, successive governments in Tehran have routinely informed the world body and the leaders in Kabul that they want the refugees to return home sooner rather than later.