The Afghan migrant crisis is becoming serious.
According to recent reports from Iran Gate, an Iranian newspaper claimed that Afghan migrants in Iran are seeking representation in the Islamic Consultative Assembly. If this claim is true, it indicates a worsening crisis of illegal Afghan migration in Iran, which threatens the country’s economic, social, and even political security.
The issue of illegal migrants in Iran has been a hot topic since the 1970s and has intensified and subsided at various times. However, the return of the Taliban to political power in Afghanistan has once again led to an influx of Afghan migrants to the eastern borders of Iran, causing an unprecedented wave of illegal migration.
Experts believe that if the Islamic Republic fails to manage this issue, we will undoubtedly have to wait for the occurrence of various crises in the near future, which will have far-reaching consequences at different levels of the country. Some domestic media even argue that a deep and dangerous divide is emerging between Iranian citizens and illegal migrants, which will have extensive implications for Iran’s national interests.
The Middle East: The epicenter of the migrant crisis.
Throughout history, large migrations have occurred as a result of wars, famines, widespread diseases, and other catastrophic events. However, in the present era, the Middle East has experienced the largest influx of migrants due to ongoing conflicts in the region. These consecutive wars have been the main factor behind the formation of millions of migrations in various corners of the Middle East.
Iran hosting war refugees in the Middle East
Iran is also one of the countries deeply affected by this crisis. Iran is not only recognized as one of the most important migrant-sending countries in the region and even in the world, but it is also one of the main destinations for war refugees and illegal immigrants. Naturally, Iran has played a significant role as the primary destination for Afghan migrants and, at times, Pakistani and Iraqi migrants as well.
However, the issue of Afghan migrants emerged almost simultaneously with the 1979 revolution in Iran. In the years following the eight-year war with the Ba’ath regime in Iraq and the subsequent stabilization of the country, a new wave of Afghan migrants flowed into Iran. This wave came to a halt with the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan after the US invasion, and we witnessed a negative migration of Afghan residents in Iran.
This trend continued until the end of Hamed Karzai’s government, but with the change of government in Kabul and the disruption of relative economic stability in the country, the migration market to Iran flourished once again. This trend had been going on more or less until two years ago, but after the fall of Ashraf Ghani’s government and the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, an unprecedented wave of Afghan migrants flooded into Iran.
This wave has intensified so much in the past two years that it has sparked an unprecedented reaction from Iranian citizens against Afghan migrants. These reactions, from the perspective of sociologists and national security experts, can have serious implications for the country’s economic, political, and social security.
The gap between citizens and migrants
Last week, some domestic media outlets reported on the entry of Afghan illegal migrants into a new and dangerous phase, referred to as the Iranian-Afghan gap. It seems to sound a serious alarm for Iranians, as this gap can encompass various dimensions, from economy to politics, and complicate matters further.
Exaggerated headlines published in some media outlets indicate that there are sources in the country intentionally or unintentionally promoting headlines that have little to no basis in reality, but quickly spread among the people. Experts believe that this shift from ethnocentrism, which has always been present among Iranians, has now turned into Afghanophobia and Arabophobia. However, since the presence of Arabs in Iran is not significant enough to be provocative, the widespread presence of Afghans has intensified this sentiment at an unbelievable speed.
The Afghan Migrant Population in Iran
One of the false news stories published in the media is the announcement of incorrect and unrealistic figures for the Afghan population residing in Iran. In recent days, it has been claimed that there are over 10 million Afghan residents in Iran. Some have even claimed that 75% of childbirths in the outskirts of Tehran are attributed to Afghan migrant women.
But the reality is that such statistics and figures are not only exaggerated, but the actual numbers are less than half of 10 million people. Some non-governmental sources indicate the presence of approximately 4.5 million Afghan immigrants in Iran. However, even this figure is very concerning, and any expert would be concerned about the consequences of the continued presence of this population in the country.
It should be noted that the figure of 45 million people represents 5% of the country’s total population, mainly scattered in the eastern and northern regions of Iran. In other words, it can be claimed that the demographic composition in many eastern cities of the country has significantly and noticeably changed.
Political and security divide
Among the exaggerated rumors and news that have spread astonishingly fast is the alleged use of illegal Afghan immigrants by the Islamic Republic to suppress Iranian protesters. Although the Islamic Republic has a history of employing foreign forces in cross-border operations, there has been no precedent for using foreign forces in domestic operations. Official and specialized security authorities have also not reported any movement in this regard so far.
However, the fact that such rumors are spreading indicates the severity of the situation and the deepening of a previously mentioned divide. We should never underestimate the dangers that the uncontrolled presence of Afghan immigrants in Iran can pose, as one of these dangers could be a serious threat to the political system governing Iran. One of these threats, as recently raised, is the attempt by immigrants to have a representative in the Iranian parliament.
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