EghtesadOnline: Between 30% and 40% of Iran’s exports to Afghanistan are undertaken by Afghan migrants in Iran, according to the director general of the Export Expansion Department of the Trade Promotion Organization of Iran.
“Afghan migrants have a better knowledge and understanding of the ins and outs of their own market and its demands, and are more familiar with our transactional difficulties as well as ways of overcoming them,” Miraboutaleb Badri was also quoted as saying by ILNA.
Badri was addressing a ceremony held at Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture on Saturday to mark the International Migrants Day.
Noting that the government is counting on migrants to boost exports to neighboring countries, the TPO official said, “We have, in the Trade Promotion Organization of Iran, held numerous meetings with the migrant communities residing in our country, particularly those active in trade, since their familiarity with the destination markets, which are in fact their native hometowns, helps profoundly in facilitating exports.”
Mohsen Ebrahimi, director general of the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare’s Employment Affairs of Expatriates Department, also addressed the Saturday meeting.
“About 86% of Afghans in Iran have migrated in pursuit of better work and wages compared to their home country, such that 10% have developed countries as their final destination,” he said.
“Presently, around one million Afghan migrants are employed in Iran, only 300,000 of whom have legal work permits. The legal workers are all protected under the mandatory work accident insurance. Around 80,000 enjoy Social Security Insurance and more than 21,000 have received vocational training in Iranian institutes. Unfortunately, the remaining 700,000 are working illegally and are deprived of their legal rights and benefits. More than 60% of the Afghan workforce in Iran are estimated to be employed in the construction sector.”
The Labor Ministry, the official noted, is in talks with the Afghan government to import workforce in case there is demand, adding that Iran needs both skilled and unskilled workforce.
“A new regulation has been ratified, which allows any migrant who exports $30,000 worth of goods to receive a work permit and residency in Iran,” he said.
Noting that the eight-year Iraq-imposed war cost Iran $1.2 trillion, TCCIM Secretary Bahman Eshqi said Afghan migrants shouldered a large part of the reconstruction process in the postwar era, adding that Iran owes big time to these migrants and their families.
“Geopolitically, Iran is situated in a turbulent region that has not seen peace and calm for over two centuries. In recent decades, Iran has had a relative political and economic stability compared with some regional countries. Therefore, it has been a main immigration destination,” he was quoted as saying by IRNA.
Eshqi said more than four million migrants are currently living in Iran that accounts for only 1% of the global population, but accommodates about 2% of the world’s migrants.
“Cultural similarities between Iranians and its migrant population have made the assimilation and integration of the latter into the society much easier,” he added.
Citing global statistics, the official said every 10% rise in immigration rate results in a 1.5% growth in global trade.
“This is why Iraq and Afghanistan are Iran’s top export destinations since, for years, immigrants have come from these countries to seek better livelihoods, security and asylum,” Eshqi said.
Latest data released by the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration show Iraq topped the list of Iran’s export destinations among its neighbors with 21.64 million tons worth $6.13 billion.
Afghanistan ranked fourth with 3.6 million tons worth $1.27 billion.
Growing Inflow of Afghan Refugees Following Taliban Takeover
.Ever since the takeover of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the flow of refugees to Iran has grown.
The Norwegian Refugee Council recently called for more funding and responsibility sharing, as 4,000 to 5,000 Afghans flee across the border to Iran daily.
“Thousands of exhausted women, children and men are crossing from Afghanistan into Iran every day in search of safety. Iran cannot be expected to host so many Afghans with so little support from the international community. There must be an immediate scale-up of aid both inside Afghanistan and in neighboring countries like Iran, before the deadly winter cold,” said the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Secretary-General Jan Egeland on a recent visit to Iran.
According to NRC, while a fraction of people have returned to Afghanistan, the numbers continue to rise and this trend may increase as the Afghan winter arrives and harsh below zero temperatures hit.
In addition, Afghanistan’s economy is in freefall and the humanitarian crisis is intensifying there.
The United Nations refugee agency’s appeal to support Afghans fleeing to neighboring countries has called for nearly $300 million to help up to 515,000 people that may flee before the end of the year. About $136 million of the total appeal funding are needed to support Afghans in Iran.
“We commend Iran for welcoming and hosting millions of displaced Afghans for the past four decades. But now the international community must step up to support Afghanistan’s neighbors and share the responsibility to help them to continue welcoming refugees. Afghans represent one of the world’s largest refugee caseloads. Now return conditions are set to become ever more elusive,” Egeland said.
While a large number of Afghan refugees are not moving toward Europe yet, all rich nations should both ramp up aid and keep their borders open to those fleeing conflict and persecution.
European nations, including Poland, must stop deporting Afghan asylum-seekers and review all failed applications in light of the crisis, according to NRC.
The council also provided the following set of facts and figures:
• It is estimated that at least 300,000 Afghans have entered Iran since the takeover of the government by the Taliban. It may be expected that hundreds of thousands will continue to arrive over the winter.
• Nearly 5 million Afghans remain displaced outside of the country. Of these, 90% are hosted by the Islamic Republics of Iran and Pakistan.
• Some 3.6 million Afghans reside in Iran, although only 780,000 are recognized as refugees.
• Iran would be the second largest refugee hosting country in the world after Turkey, if all Afghans were recognized as refugees.
• Iran is among the most Covid-affected countries in the region. Close to 6 million people have been infected, while the number of reported associated deaths is over 126,000. Iran has also been vaccinating Afghan refugees, including those undocumented.
• Afghan children in Iran, regardless of the legal status of their parents, can enroll in public schools together with Iranian children. This is an example of one of the most inclusive refugee policies globally.
• The UN Refugee Agency has called for a bar on forced returns of Afghan nationals, including asylum-seekers who have had their claims rejected. NRC supports this call.
• Over half of Afghanistan’s population is in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the United Nations.
Iran’s Interior Ministry has warned the international community that if the economic problems of Afghanistan are not solved, the world will see another wave of migrants.
Ahmad Wahidi, Iran's interior minister, said the freezing of Afghan assets and lack of humanitarian aid are the main reasons for triggering a new wave of migrants.
“If these migrants don’t stay in Iran, where will they go?” he said. “They will go to the borders. We have returned some people from the border with Turkey.”
International Migrants Day
On Dec. 18, 1990, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
Each year on this day, the United Nations, through the UN-related agency International Organization for Migration, uses International Migrants Day to highlight the contributions made by the roughly 272 million migrants, including more than 41 million internally displaced persons and the challenges facing them.
This global event, supported by events organized by IOM's nearly 500 country offices and sub-offices as well as governmental, international and domestic civil society partners, examines a wide range of migration themes, social cohesion, dignity, exploitation, solidarity to advocate for migration guided by the principle that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants as well as the society hosting them.
According to the UN, a broad range of factors continue to determine the movement of people. They are either voluntary or forced movements as a result of the increased magnitude and frequency of disasters, economic challenges and extreme poverty or conflict.
Approximately 281 million people were international migrants in 2020, representing 3.6% of the global population.
All these will significantly affect the characteristics and scale of migration in the future and determine the strategies and policies countries must develop in order to harness the potential of migration while ensuring the fundamental human rights of migrants are protected.
Migrants contribute with their knowledge, networks and skills to build stronger, more resilient communities.
The global social and economic landscape can be shaped through impactful decisions to address the challenges and opportunities presented by global mobility and people on the move.