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
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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.


Sri Lanka expands visa-free scheme halted after bombings

Updated 39 min 48 sec ago
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Sri Lanka expands visa-free scheme halted after bombings

  • Sri Lanka initially projected a 30 percent dip in the number of foreign holidaymakers after the attacks
  • Sri Lanka welcomed a record 2.33 million tourists in 2018

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka has re-introduced and expanded a visa-free entry scheme for visitors in a bid to revive its flagging tourism sector after the deadly Easter bombings, officials said Wednesday.
The concession for tourists from 39 nations was suspended after militants bombed three churches and three luxury hotels in Colombo on April 21 killing 258 people, including 45 foreigners.
“As the security situation has improved, the cabinet of ministers decided to revive the visa-free scheme and also extended it to seven more countries,” the government said in a statement.
A tourism official said foreign governments have relaxed travel advisories for Sri Lanka since the attacks.
There has also been a lift in the number of arrivals, which nosedived soon after the bombings blamed on a home-grown militant group, the official said.
The new countries added to the expanded scheme — which already allows travelers from the European Union, Australia and the United States to enter Sri Lanka without a visa — include China and India.
Visitors still have to obtain a visa on arrival, but the government has waived the $35 fee from August 1.
Sri Lanka initially projected a 30 percent dip in the number of foreign holidaymakers after the attacks.
The following month the number of tourists plunged to 37,800, down from 166,975 in April, according to official figures.
But they improved last month with some 63,000 visitors, although numbers are still down from 146,828 in June 2018.
Sri Lanka welcomed a record 2.33 million tourists in 2018, and was named the world’s top travel destination for 2019 by the Lonely Planet travel guide.