Hundreds of Afghan refugees forcibly removed from Iran

Amnesty International is urging the Government of Iran to immediately

stop the forced return of Afghans from Iran without giving them the chance

to apply for voluntary repatriation or have their individual claims for

continued protection assessed in a fair manner.

'The Iranian authorities have a duty to ensure that Afghans are

treated with dignity and respect, not rounded up and herded out of the

country to face possible persecution,' Amnesty International urged.

Entire families are reported to have been arrested by Iran's

Disciplinary Forces in southern Tehran and put in camps near the city

before being bussed over the border to the Nimruz region of western

Afghanistan. Afghans are picked up indiscriminately from the streets and

buses are reportedly stopped and searched for Afghans.

The arrest and transfer of Afghans has taken place despite an

agreement in February betwen the United Nations High Commissioner for

Refugees and the Iranian authorities. The agreement allowed Afghans

without proper papers six months to register their presence. They could

then either ask to be sent home or request further protection in Iran. This

policy was to stop forced repatriation of Afghans from Iran. However, large

numbers of Afghans have been deported against their will.

An Iranian official reportedly said yesterday that the authorities

would concentrate on voluntary repatriation, implying that a wave of

forcible deportations may be over. However, even if these arrests are

stopped in Tehran, Afghans living in other parts of the country are likely

to be still at risk.

As a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and under the customary

principle of non-refoulement, Iran has an obligation not to return anyone

to a country where they could be subject to serious human rights

violations.

Amnesty International also calls on the Iranian government to set up

an impartial, independent and competent body to investigate report of

forcible repatriation and bring those responsible to justice.

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