A senior official from Iran's Foreign Ministry has said millions of Afghan refugees will be expelled from Iran if the sanctions on Tehran are increased.
According to Iranian officials, more than three million Afghan refugees are living in Iran with over two million of them working in that country.
In an interview with Iran’s IRNA news agency, the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Sayed Abbas Araghchi said Iran would ask the Afghan refugees to go home if sanctions are increased, adding that the migrants annually send three to five billion Euros to Afghanistan.
Araghchi said: “468,000 Afghan students are getting education freely in Iranian schools and every student costs 600 Euros on an average basis.”
He said that 23,000 Afghan students are enrolled in Iranian universities and Iran invests nearly 15,000 Euros for them annually.
“When the US sanctions leave impacts and Iran’s financial resources are reduced and the sale of oil reaches to zero, when our oil revenues are decreased, however they (US) will not succeed to reach our oil imports to zero. They must know that in that case, Iran will be compelled to take fresh policies for its economy. There is possibility that one day we get to the point that we are no longer able to complete the expenditures and then it is possible that we request our Afghan brothers and sisters to leave to their own country,” said Araghchi.
The Iranian official said that Iran is not interested in resorting such measure on the humanitarian basis, but if Iran becomes compel to do so, then the responsibility will go to the US.
Araghchi said that Iran has been the victim of conflict in Afghanistan.
“We are victim of the conflict in Afghanistan. Those who created the conflict in Afghanistan and created the Taliban and other terrorist groups and funded them and brought this catastrophe on the Afghan people, they should tolerate the expenses, not Iran,” he said.
Araghchi’s comments have sparked some reaction in Afghanistan.
“We are confident that the government of Islamic Republic of Iran as a good friend of Afghanistan takes responsible action towards the refugees,” said Sibghat Ahmadi, spokesman for Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
This comes a day after Trump on Wednesday imposed new sanctions on Iran, targeting revenue from its exports of industrial metals, the latest salvo in tensions between Washington and Tehran over a 2015 international accord officially known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) based on which, Iran committed to curb its nuclear program.
“I am not fully aware of the comments made by the officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran. First, we have to analyze their comments to find out what they really have said. If such comments were made, the relations between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran are very deep and we need to invest more in these brotherly relations as neighbors. There is no doubt that various countries in the world have their own separate tensions, but the two neighboring countries need to focus as much as they can on their ties and invest more in this area,” said Mahmoud Saikal, former Afghan permanent representative to the UN.
“No doubt, Iran uses Afghan refugees as a political tool,” said Jawed Ludin, former Deputy Minister of Interior.
Two Afghan critics said the Afghan refugees in any country need a dignified repatriation to the country which should be facilitated by the government.
“A dignified repatriation of Afghan refugees is part of our national interest and ensures our national pride,” said university lecturer Massoud Tarishtwal.
“Iran wants to tell the European Union that if you do not want to take practical steps against the US sanctions on Iran, we are compelled to open the way of floods of refugees and drugs to Europe,” said political analyst Ahmad Saeedi.