IOM Highlights Needs of Deported Afghan Minors

Date Published: 
Friday, December 4, 2015

Unaccompanied minors make up the largest group of vulnerable Afghans returning from Iran, yet the needs of the children who make this dangerous cross-border journey are often overlooked.

IOM has assisted over 1,800 unaccompanied Afghan minors, almost all boys, returning from Iran so far this year. Most are between the ages of 12 and 17 years old, although IOM has assisted children as young as 10.

Faced with few economic opportunities in Afghanistan and often the primary breadwinners in their families, these minors are smuggled across the border to work menial jobs and send back money. While many stay in Iran, Afghan minors are increasingly attempting to reach Turkey and Europe.

“Once in the hands of smugglers, minors face serious risks of exploitation and abuse,” said IOM Afghanistan Chief of Mission Richard Danziger. “However, given the lack of opportunities in Afghanistan, many feel they have little choice but to make this perilous journey.”

A 15 year old Afghan deported from Iran earlier this year described to IOM how he was the sole provider for his family of five in Herat.

“My father is too old to work, so they sent me to Iran,” the boy told IOM. “The smuggler put 30 of us in one vehicle to cross the border. In Iran I found work on a construction site. I had to carry 50 kg bags of cement, it was very hard. But I was able to send money home to my family and send my brothers to school. One day the police raided the site and took us to a detention centre. We had to pay a fine before they deported us back to Afghanistan.”

Some minors in Iran are arrested before they even have a chance to reach their destination and begin working, leaving them heavily in debt to smugglers and stuck at the border after they are deported.

“My father worked for an NGO in Kunduz, and he was shot dead in front of me,” a 14 year old boy deported from Iran told IOM staff at Afghanistan’s Islam Qala border with Iran. “To support the rest of my family I had no choice but to go to Iran. But before I even reached my destination, I was caught and deported.”

IOM provided the boy with food, clothing and temporary accommodation at the organization’s transit center. Once his family was located in Kunduz, he was reunited safely with them by IOM.

Between January and November 2015, a total of 1,830 unaccompanied minors were assisted by IOM at the Islam Qala and Milak border crossing points between Afghanistan and Iran.

IOM staff at the border identify returning minors and provide them with temporary accommodation, medical services, family tracing and either referral to shelters if needed, or family reunification.

“More needs to be done to both educate minors about the risks of smuggling and, more importantly, to create better opportunities for them in Afghanistan,” said Danziger.

IOM has been providing post-arrival assistance to vulnerable undocumented Afghans returning from Iran and Pakistan since 2009, with funding support from the Government of Japan and the Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF.)

For further information, please contact Matthew Graydon in Kabul, Tel. +93 794 100 546, Email: mgraydon@iom.int