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Transnational Networks and Migration from Faryab to Iran

Transnational Networks and Migration from Faryab to Iran

Transnational Networks and Migration from Faryab to Iranthat the large majority of potential migrants are forced to find other ways to eitherobtain a passport or travel to Iran.Those from rural areas experience even more challenges in obtaining a passport –particularly in finding the required social connections in their area of origin and inMazar-i-Sharif. Indicating the inaccessibility of certain social networks within andoutside Arab society, one man explains: “If I had a passport I could go alone. If youhave money or if you know someone in the passport office, then it is easy […]. Doyou really think that the arbab would bring me to the governor?”In particular over the past year the usage of passports has increased. Illegal ways toobtain passports are opted for because the official ways appear to be almost entirelyimpossible for many Afghans. In the rural area, criminal networks exploit the povertyand lack of knowledge of some of its residents, causing them to enter a high debt inexchange for a false passport. 61 Allegedly, since the beginning of this year, poorvillagers have been buying passports for 15,000 Afghanis (US$300), which is almost13 times the official price. 62When considering the costs and benefits of using smugglers versus obtaining apassport and visa, the predominant decision appears to still be in favour ofsmugglers (who might even provide the passports), because of:• time required to arrange the travel• information available in the area of origin (in particular when the smuggler ispart of the transnational network of the migrant)• costs (depending on the extent of bribes and the negotiated price of thejourney)• extreme difficulties obtaining passports and Iranian visas through the officialchannels4.5 Deportation from IranAt the border there is a significant risk that smuggled migrants will be arrested bythe Iranian police, imprisoned for a definite period of time and then deported backto Afghanistan. Deportation mainly takes place at Islam Qala, the formal bordercrossing in Herat, and the formal border crossing in Nimroz. In the latter province,reports show that approximately 97 percent of the deportees are undocumented andhave little or no money. 63 In Islam Qala a total of 26,732 Afghans were deported in2002 and 28,311 in 2003. In 2002 the number of deportations increased significantlyin September (to over 5,000) because of the passing of the Iranian government’sdeadline for all unregistered Afghans to register and repatriate voluntarily. 64 Nearly95 percent of total forced returns in 2002 and 2003 were single men.There are two main categories of deportees: those who are captured while enteringIran or on their way to their destination, and those who are arrested during “roundups”in major Iranian towns. The latter are often deported in large groupscomprising up to 400 people. 65 The majority, however, are arrested en route to their61 The passports are invalid because of the non-matching fingerprints.62 See Stigter (2004) for further details about this issue.63 IOM, 2003: 47–864 UNHCR Herat, 2004: 165 UNHCR Iran, 2003: 4Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit 27

Transnational Networks and Migration from Faryab to Irancities of destination, a couple of days after having entered Iran. 66 One man tells ofhis experiences at the border:It was the end of the Taliban time. […] Then smugglers came to us, and tookus to the border and then to Zahedan and there we were arrested anddeported back at night. They kept us for two days inside the trucks and wewere about 120 persons. For one hour we had a break for drinking water andurinating and other things, and during these two days we were beaten andtortured, and then send back to Afghanistan. The second time when we wentwe were deported as well. Every time we stayed and delayed our departurefor one week close to the border. Finally, the third time, we could pass theborder. We did not pay the smugglers because we did not have money in cash– but we paid them in Tehran with money borrowed from our relatives.Other stories of deportees include harassment by the police, forced labour and poortreatment in prison or deportation centres. When arrested in an urban area,imprisonment in one of the detention centres is likely – involving beatings, scarcefood, confiscation of belongings, extortion, forced labour and difficult sleepingconditions. Since February 2003, Afghans who have been detained have indicatedsome improvements in detention centres (in Safed Sang in particular), but so far nomajor improvements have taken place in Kerman detention centre. 67When deportation occurs at the border, an immediate attempt to return to Iran islikely as no major costs have so far been incurred, except psychologically. Deporteesare also more inclined to try re-entering Iran to avoid returning home without havingbeen able to send promised or expected remittances.For some migrants, however, the experience of arrest and deportation is sodegrading that they fear ever having to go through it again. For those picked upduring one of the round-ups in the cities, a decision against return is sometimesmade when considering the new debts that would need to be entered, and theexacerbated challenges if it happens to be winter. In some exceptional cases theactual costs of deportation are high, in particular when money has been borrowed athigh interest rates and if deportation has happened repeatedly.Many migrants, however, are able to stay in Iran for an extended period of time,saving money for themselves and their families: smuggling persists by addressing aneed among many Afghans. Furthermore, the fact that the majority of men arepicked up en route does little to deter their return to Iran, as their costs arerelatively small up to that point. The experiences of deportees, as well as the storiesof experienced migrants about the difficulties of life in Iran, fail to deter themajority of Afghans from going, in particular as other push-and-pull factors are morecompelling. 6866 Among the interviewed deportees, 62 percent were arrested en route, mainly on the way to Tehranand Kerman (UNHCR Herat, 2004: 4).67 UNHCR Herat, 2004: 468 See Koser, 2004 for assumptions underlying deportation.Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit 28

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