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HRW Criticizes Iran's Policy On Afghan Refugees

Afghan refugees sit at a UN refugee agency center in Herat after being deported from Iran in September.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released a report citing Iran's violations of the rights of Afghan refugees.

The report was released in Kabul on November 20 and criticizes Iran for deporting "thousands of Afghans to a country where the danger is both real and serious."

The report points out many of the Afghan refugees had been living in Iran for years but says that recently Iranian authorities have been pushing them to go home.

"Iran has shouldered a pretty heavy burden, for the past 30 years or so, of refugees in the country. In the beginning, the Iranian government actually allowed them to live in the cities amongst Iranians, there weren't that many restrictions, they had access to education, life wasn't perfect for them but there weren't that many barriers," HRW researcher Faraz Sanei tells RFE/RL.

"In the last 10 to 15 years, however, the situation has changed quite a bit. And because the numbers have increased over time and also because of the problems that the Iranian government has had because of economic sanctions and lots of other political issues within the country, there's been an increasing pressure to essentially get rid or push out many of these Afghans."

HRW says that in some cases families have been separated, with parents and older children sent to Afghanistan while minors were kept in Iran.

The report also notes new Afghan refugees fleeing the surge in violence in their home country are not being granted asylum by the Iranian authorities.

"The biggest criticism, I would say, of Human Rights Watch regarding Iran's policy towards the Afghan refugees and migrant workers, is that at this point no Afghan has the opportunity to request refugee status, any newly arriving Afghans don't have the opportunity to seek refugee status in Iran, even if they have problems going back to Afghanistan because of insecurity and lots of other issues," Sanei says.

"Also, any Afghan that is going to be deported because he or she is an unlawful, undocumented migrant worker doesn't have the chance to seek asylum."

The report urges Iran to meet international standards for the refugees' treatment.

With contributions from RFE/RL correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari
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