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Iran Expels Thousands of Afghan Workers

Iran is forcibly repatriating tens of thousands of Afghan nationals, calling the undocumented workers a drain on the Iranian economy. From Islamabad, VOA correspondent Benjamin Sand reports the United Nations says more than 100,000 Afghans have been deported from Iran in the last two months.

U.N. and Afghan officials say as many as 2,000 Afghans are being deported everyday.

Afghan authorities have asked Tehran to end the immigration crackdown, saying the massive flood of forced returnees could overwhelm local resources.

U.N. spokesman Adrian Edwards says the international body has also shared its concerns with Iranian officials in the Afghan capital.

"Quite clearly it is a concern and when you do something like this it does have to be done in a humane manner," said Edwards. "It does have to be orderly and gradual so the receiving country can cope."

He says most of those being forced out of Iran are illegal workers, not refugees, so technically the Iranian operation is considered legal.

Iran told the U.N. and the Afghan government in February that it would begin deporting illegal immigrants later this year.

The U.N. says there are around 920,000 registered Afghan refugees in Iran along with at least one million undocumented Afghans.

Edwards says many of the Afghans being deported have been separated from their families, including young children.

Nearly all of the returnees say Iran is making them pay for their own transportation costs even as they are being forced out of the country.

There are also widespread reports of Iranian abuse of Afghans.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch says many of the deportees claim they were seriously beaten before being driven out of Iran.

The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission says some Afghan nationals have died from injuries inflicted by Iranian police.

Human Rights Watch is calling on Iran to immediately halt the mass deportations and give the Afghans an opportunity to seek asylum if appropriate.

Iranian officials in Kabul are denying any allegations of abuse along the border and say the transfers will continue as planned.

They say the undocumented workers are being forced out because of the extraordinary impact they are having on Iran's economy.

Iranian businesses are under pressure from U.S.-led economic sanctions over Tehran's refusal to halt its controversial nuclear program.