Surge in Afghans leaving Iran

Afghans returning home from Iran

Afghans returning home from Iran

The number of Afghan refugees leaving Iran has doubled over the past year says the UN Refugee Agency, UNCHR. They are leaving because they can no longer afford to live in the country where previously they were receiving support from the Iranian government. Afghans are the second largest group of long staying refugees in Iran.

 Jocelyne Sambira has the story.

 SFX –reception centre

 Afghan refugees are lining up at the Dogharoun border point in Iran waiting to cross.

Over a million Afghans are officially registered as refugees in Iran, but it's believed that another two million live there illegally.

 Since last year, the number of refugees going home has doubled.

 Muhammad Khan is 106 years old. He and his wife have lived in Iran for 13 years.

 Now, he says, it's time to go home.

"I am very happy to be going home. That land that is yours is sweet. So I’m going back to my land."

The refugees receive some cash, about $150 US per person, plus a travel grant in local currency. 

Some get extra assistance from UNHCR to make their journey possible. 

Forty-two-year-old Bazz Mohammad is also leaving with his wife and seven children after 18 years in Iran.

He says the cost of living is now just too high.

"I have a family of eight. Five of my children are going to school. I’m the only breadwinner for the family. So what I earn is only enough to pay the rent for the house and the school fees. How can I manage things like food?"

The Iranian government has recently cut off subsidies for food, fuel, and other commodities for Iranian and Afghan families alike. 

This has been a huge blow to Afghan families like Mohammad's. Mayeleh Bazz is Mohammad's wife:
"We used to pay five-six tomans (five-six US dollars) per month for electricity and now it is 25 (25 US) tomans. For water it was two (two US) tomans, now it is 15(15 U.S) toman. And for rent it was 40-50,000 (50 US) now it is 150,000(150 US) per month."


So, moving back to Afghanistan is the most reasonable option for Mohammed and his family.

But his wife, Mayeleh, has mixed feelings about going home. She was sixteen when she fled Afghanistan.  

"From the one side, I am very happy to go back to my country, my homeland, my family, my brother and sister. From the other side, I am not sure what is waiting for me because I don't know about the situation of living now in Afghanistan."

For Mohammed and his family, leaving Iran is the best option for now.

But the future holds many challenges. There are no jobs in Afghanistan either, and the country is still plagued by insecurity.

Jocelyne Sambira, United Nations.

duration:  2’37″


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