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Thousands of Afghans deported from Pakistani, Iranian prisons

Afghan refugees (EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Thousands of Afghans who were detained in Pakistani and Iranian prisons have been sent back to Afghanistan as Islamabad and Tehran ramp up the expulsion of Afghan citizens.

In Karachi, the capital of the southern Pakistani province of Sindh, the Taliban’s consul-general, Abdul Jabbar Takhari, said that over 3,000 Afghans detained in the region’s prisons had been sent back during the past year.

“Women and children are among the 3,053 Afghans who were sent back,” he told RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi on December 19.

“During the past two months, more than 460 Afghans who had been detained despite possessing legal documents were repatriated after they were released,” he added.

Takhari said that 356 Afghans still languished in prisons across Sindh.

Meanwhile, Taliban officials in the southern Nimroz Province said that during the past nine months, Iran has handed over 300 Afghan detainees.

The large number of Afghans detained, mostly on charges of staying illegally in the two countries, indicates the scale of the forced expulsions of Afghans from its eastern and western neighbors.

According to the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, Islamabad currently hosts more than 3 million Afghans, while more than 4.5 million displaced people live in Iran, the vast majority of whom are Afghan.

Taliban and Pakistani officials say that over half a million Afghans have returned to their country from Pakistan during the past three months.

In early October, Islamabad announced that all 1.7 million “undocumented foreigners” should leave the country by November 1.

During the past few months, several hundred thousand Afghans have been forced out of Iran in a similar campaign. Iranian officials say over half of the 5 million Afghans living in the country currently do not possess the documents required to stay in the country.

Most Afghans returning from Iran and Pakistan complain of harassment, abuse, and mistreatment.

“The police took away all our money after detaining us,” Roman Yadgar, who was recently returned to Afghanistan after being freed from prison in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, told Radio Azadi.

“They didn’t give us any food, mistreated our children and women, and treated us inhumanely,” he added. “After a few days, they deported us here.”

Aid agencies have warned of a humanitarian catastrophe if Islamabad and Tehran continue to send millions of Afghans back.

With more than 29 million of the country’s estimated 40 million population in need of humanitarian assistance, Afghanistan is already reeling from the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Earlier this month, Asif Durrani, Pakistan’s special envoy to Afghanistan, said that nearly 450,000 Afghan nationals returned to their home country since Islamabad announced two months ago that it would deport all undocumented foreigners.

Durrani shared the latest data while addressing a seminar in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, VOA reported on December 6. He was speaking the same day the United Nations renewed its warning that Afghans returning from Pakistan “face a precarious, uncertain future” in their crisis-hit and impoverished country.