Iranian government expels tens of thousands of Afghan refugees

Afghan refugee family walk at a refugee camp on the outskirts of Islamabad. (AFP)
Updated 12 June 2019

Iranian government expels tens of thousands of Afghan refugees

  • Others leaving voluntarily due to poor economy of sanctions-hit country
  • The Afghan government ‘lacks the means to find jobs or provide any financial support for the returnees’

KABUL: Tehran has expelled tens of thousands of Afghan refugees so far this year, while roughly the same number have returned voluntarily due to US sanctions against Iran, Afghan officials said on Monday.

Some 181,000 refugees have been expelled or have left willingly, said Reza Baher, spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations.

“Some of those deported are trying to go back to Iran,” he told Arab News. “Many of those who’ve been deported are without documents, barring them from justifying their stay there.”

Last year, some 750,000 Afghans, many without travel documents, left Iran willingly or unwillingly, he said.

Some 2.4 million Afghans live in Iran, many holding either a visa or a permit to stay, according to the ministry.

Baher said the devaluation of Iran’s currency and the poor state of its economy due to US sanctions have led Afghans to return home voluntarily.

The International Organization for Migration said it has provided assistance to hundreds of returnees.

“As Afghans primarily work in the informal economy in Iran, the demand for this type of work is drastically reduced,” it added in a statement.

Analyst Taj Mohammad Ahmadzada told Arab News that the Afghan government “lacks the means to find jobs or provide any financial support for the returnees.”

He said: “We have an estimated 1.4 million people internally displaced by war and natural disasters, who live in miserable conditions. The return of tens of thousands from outside adds to the problems across the country.”

Wahidullah Ghazikhail who runs a think tank, told Arab News that with the poverty rate in Afghanistan already at “70 percent,” the influx of returnees will “create a crisis.”

“They need work, so they’re obliged to join insurgency groups to feed their children,” he said.

Nigeria death toll rises in Boko Haram triple suicide bombing

Updated 3 min 21 sec ago

Nigeria death toll rises in Boko Haram triple suicide bombing

  • Three bombers detonated their explosives outside a hall in Konduga

Thirty people were killed late Sunday in a triple suicide bombing in northeast Nigeria, emergency services reported, in an attack bearing the hallmarks of the Boko Haram militant group.

Three bombers detonated their explosives outside a hall in Konduga, 38 kilometers from the Borno state capital Maiduguri, where football fans were watching a match on TV.

“The death toll from the attack has so far increased to 30. We have over 40 people injured,” Usman Kachalla, head of operations at the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), said on Monday.

An earlier toll from the blasts, the bloodiest in months, gave 17 dead and 17 wounded.

The attack happened around 9:00 P.M., Ali Hassan, the leader of a self-defense group in the town, said.

The owner of hall prevented one of the bombers from entering the packed venue.

“There was a heated argument between the operator and the bomber who blew himself up,” Hassan said by phone.

Two other bombers who had mingled among the crowd at a tea stall nearby also detonated their suicide vests.

Hassan said most of the victims were from outside the soccer viewing center.

“Nine people died on the spot, including the operator, and 48 were injured,” Hassan said.

Kachala said the high number of fatalities was because emergency responders had been unable to reach the site of the blast quickly.

Nor were they equipped to deal with large numbers of wounded.

“Lack of an appropriate health facility to handle such huge emergency situation and the delay in obtaining security clearance to enable us deploy from Maiduguri in good time led to the high death toll,” he said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the attack bore the imprint of Boko Haram, which has led a decade-long campaign to establish a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria.

The last suicide attack was in April this year when two female suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the garrison town of Monguno, killing a soldier and a vigilante and injuring another soldier.

Konduga has been repeatedly targeted by suicide bombers from a Boko Haram faction loyal to longtime leader Abubakar Shekau.

The faction typically carries out suicide attacks against soft civilian targets such as mosques, markets and bus stations, often using young women and girls as bombers.

The militants are believed to sneak into the town from the group’s haven in nearby Sambisa forest.

Eight worshippers were killed when a suicide bomber attacked a mosque in the town last July.

Boko Haram insurgency has claimed 27,000 lives and forced some two million to flee their homes.

The violence has spilled into neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting the formation of a regional military coalition to battle the insurgents.