Afghan migrants returning from Iran hit record high in 2018

Afghan returnees from Iran carry their backpacks as they arrive in Herat on August 4, 2018, just some of the nearly 800,000 who were forced to leave because of reduced economic opportunities. (AFP)
Updated 08 January 2019
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Afghan migrants returning from Iran hit record high in 2018

  • ‘The reason why people are coming back is because of the reduced economic opportunities in the region ... including Iran’
  • Iran’s rial lost around half its value against the dollar last year after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal

HERAT, Afghanistan: The flow of Afghans forced to leave Iran turned into a flood in 2018, with a record nearly 800,000 coming back as renewed US sanctions sent the Iranian currency into freefall and fueled inflation.
The 773,125 voluntary returnees and deportees was 66 percent more than in 2017 and the trend is expected to continue, said Laurence Hart, the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) chief of mission in Afghanistan.
“The reason why people are coming back is because of the reduced economic opportunities in the region ... including Iran,” Hart said.
The 2018 figure was the highest since the IOM began systematically recording the volume of returnees to Afghanistan in 2012.
In contrast, just under 33,000 Afghans came back from Pakistan, where many have lived since fleeing the Soviet invasion of 1979.
Desperate Afghans have been paying smugglers to cross the porous border with Iran for years in search of work to support struggling families.
Smugglers can charge $300-$500 per person, turning it into a multi-million industry.
An estimated 1.5 million to two million “undocumented” Afghans are in Iran, the United Nations’ refugee agency said in September, citing government estimates.
Another one million are registered as refugees.
Many of the families of migrants are farmers who have been suffering through Afghanistan’s worst drought in living memory, compounding the misery caused by 17 years of conflict and underscoring their reliance on the remittances.
“There were no jobs in Afghanistan so I had to go to Iran for work,” said Mohammad Sarwar, 39, who worked as a laborer for four months before he was arrested by Iranian police and deported.
“If I can make some money here, I will never go back to Iran,” he said at the IOM’s busy transit center in the western Afghan city of Herat, roughly 140 kilometers (90 miles) from the border.
Abdul Hakim, 28, had just found a job in Iran after a month of searching when he was detained and kicked out. He faces an uncertain future as he tries to find a way to support his wife and three young children.
“The situation is very bad in Afghanistan,” said Hakim, who comes from the northwestern province of Badghis, which has been hit hard by the drought.
Some, like 75-year-old Naseruddin, who only gave one name, have returned to Afghanistan penniless.
“I was there for five months but the police caught me,” he said.
“I have no money on me.”
Nearly half of the returnees — 358,065 — volunteered to come back to Afghanistan after watching their earnings shrivel up and jobs disappear.
Iran’s rial lost around half its value against the dollar last year after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal.
That move triggered a reimposition of tough sanctions on the Islamic republic, which have exacerbated the country’s economic problems.


Five suspects in court over Nairobi hotel attack

Updated 1 min 22 sec ago
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Five suspects in court over Nairobi hotel attack

  • A magistrate granted a request from the prosecution to detain the four men and one woman for 30 days while investigations continue
  • Gladys Kaari Justus is being investigated over the transfer of money while Guleid Abdihakim — who holds Canadian citizenship — is being probed over suspicious communication

NAIROBI: Five suspects, including a Canadian citizen, appeared in a Kenyan court Friday in connection with a militant attack on a Nairobi hotel complex that left 21 dead.
A magistrate granted a request from the prosecution to detain the four men and one woman for 30 days while investigations continue.
The suspects are accused of “possible involvement in the almost 20-hour siege of the DusitD2 hotel and office complex by a suicide bomber and four gunmen who were all killed by security forces,” a court document said.
“The investigations into this matter are complex and transnational and would therefore require sufficient time and resources to uncover the entire criminal syndicate,” a statement from Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Hajji said.
A total of 11 suspects were arrested after Tuesday’s attack, however investigations into the others were still ongoing.
Those who appeared in court include Joel Ng’ang’a Wainaina, a taxi driver who ferried the attackers around on several occasions, and Oliver Kanyango Muthee, a taxi driver who drove one of the assailants to the scene of the attack.
Gladys Kaari Justus is being investigated over the transfer of money while Guleid Abdihakim — who holds Canadian citizenship — is being probed over suspicious communication.
The other suspect Osman Ibrahim is alleged to have met with one of the attackers on January 8.
Two suspects yet to appear in court, Ali Salim Gichunge and Violet Kemunto Omwoyo possessed SIM cards that were in “constant communication” with numbers in Somalia, court documents revealed.
The attack was claimed by Somali militant group Al-Shabab, an affiliate of Al-Qaeda which has repeatedly targeted Kenya over the presence of its troops in Somalia.
In 2013 an attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi left 67 dead, while in 2015 Shabab killed 148 people at a university in Garissa, eastern Kenya.