QALAT (SW) – Amid the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of Afghan migrants have been deported back to their war-ravaged country.

Abdul Wahab Soleimani, a 30-year-old resident of Zabul province fled raging violence poverty in his hometown of Zabul and embarked on the irregular migration to Iran. He told Salam Watandar that before the spread of the coronavirus in Iran, he worked for 160 to 170 thousand tomans a day, but with the spread of this virus, all factories were closed and workers’ wages were reduced to 50 thousand tomans per day.

He said that the crippling pandemic and the uncertain future in Iran caused him to return to the Afghanistan empty-handed after two years of hard labor there. “During the pandemic, the businesses were completely closed. And, this was the situation even up till last month, all shops were closed, there was no work”, he added.

A month ago, Maryam, a 25-year-old woman, sold her house, land and property in Kabul for in a bid to migrate to Iran with 17 members of her family, and from there to Turkey. Maryam said she spent 22 days with her family members on high-risk routes of irregular migration in the hope of a better future in Turkey.

While the physical weakness of migration and the fatigue of migration were evident on the faces of Maryam and all her family members, especially her children, she recalled the problems and dangers of irregular migration on the one hand and the fear of coronavirus on the other hand prevented them from reaching their destination.

According to Maryam, after taking the dangerous routes of irregular migration, they were detained by the Iranian border guards and deported back to Afghanistan.

The spread of the coronavirus has not only had a negative effect on the irregular migration of Maryam and her family members, hundreds of more families like her have been deported from neighboring countries back to Afghanistan.

According to the statistics provided by the Department of Migrants and Returnees in Herat, over 500,000 Afghan citizens have returned from Iran recently.

Mobin Qaderi, the head of Herat’s migrants and returnees department, said that 334,269 of the returnees had entered the country voluntarily and 172,521 have been deported. According to the head of migration and returnees in Herat, among those deported are 152 unaccompanied women and 2,161 orphaned children.

Qaderi added that up to 15,000 Afghan refugees have been entering the country on daily basis through the Islamic Qala crossing point. According to him this figure has further surged amid surge in COVID-19 cases of the new variants in Iran, and now about 5,000 people enter the country daily through the same crossing point.

Meanwhile, a number of civil society activists in Herat believe that the coronacrisis has severely affected job opportunities.

Sayed Ashraf Sadat, a civil activist in Herat, said: “Coronavirus has severely damaged the economic structure, especially the way of life of migrants and has deprived all migrants of employment opportunities”, he said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Public Health has noted that the situation in neighboring countries has had a direct impact on Afghan citizens, and the number of returnees from neighboring countries has increased due to the cessation of economic activities there.

ENDS

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