05 May 2020
On 1 May, reports emerged detailing Iranian border guards beating, torturing, and forcing a group of Afghan migrants into the Harirud River in an attempt to prevent them from entering the country from Afghanistan’s Herat Province. According to one migrant who witnessed the incident, Iranian guards “warned us that if we do not throw ourselves into the water, we will be shot.”
As of 3 May, at least seven Afghans are believed to have drowned, and more than 30 remain missing. Doctors at Herat District Hospital stated that they had received several bodies - four of whom reportedly displayed clear signs of death by drowning. In a statement released the following day, Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry announced that an inquiry had been launched, however the Iranian consulate in Herat denied all allegations.
It is estimated that between 1.5 and 3 million Afghans live and work in Iran - many as wage labourers on construction projects. Following the outbreak of Covid-19, which hit Iran particularly acutely, large numbers returned to Afghanistan. With Iran starting to ease its restrictions, some have sought to return in search of employment.
- Many Afghan migrants in search of work cross the border to Iran from Herat province (BBC, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-52523048?CMP=share_btn_me)
- Al Jazeera, “Afghanistan Probes Report Iran Guards Forced Migrants Into River,” 3 May 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/05/afghanistan-probes-report-iran-guards-forced-migrants-river-200503092623834.html
- BBC, “Afghanistan Investigates Reports Iran Guards Forced Migrants Into River,” 3 May 2020, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-52523048?CMP=share_btn_me
07 April 2020
According to UNHCR, “There are close to one million refugees in Iran, mostly from Afghanistan and also Iraq. From the onset of the pandemic, the Government of Iran has made every effort to ensure that all refugees have access to the same health services as Iranians, so that they are fully included in the national COVID-19 response.” However, as of this update, the Global Detention Project has found no reports indicating that the government is taking specific measures to assist people who may be in prisons or detention centres for immigration or asylum-related reasons.
In mid-March, the government ordered the release of 85,000 prisoners detained in criminal prisons in efforts to combat the spread of Coronavirus. On 20 March, prisoners attempted to escape the Parsilon Prison of Khorramabad in western Iran in a coordinated plan with people involved inside and outside the facility. Reports indicate that individuals attacked the prison from the outside and killed two or three prison guards. Guards and security forces subsequently opened fire on about 250 fleeing prisoners, which left many of them dead. Following the riot, martial law was declared in Khorramabad and raids are being conducted to apprehend the fleeing prisoners.
- UNHCR, “Refugee nurse on the front line against coronavirus in Iran,” 7 April 2020, https://www.unhcr.org/news/stories/2020/4/5e8c3ab84/refugee-nurse-line-against-coronavirus-iran.html
- ITV, “Iran Releases 85000 Prisoners Amid Efforts to Combat Spread of Coronavirus,” 17 March 2020, https://www.itv.com/news/2020-03-17/iran-releases-85-000-prisoners-amid-efforts-to-combat-spread-of-coronavirus/
- T. Gillespie, “Coronavirus: Iran Frees 85000 Prisoners to Combat Spread of Infection,” ITV, 17 March 2020, https://www.itv.com/news/2020-03-17/iran-releases-85-000-prisoners-amid-efforts-to-combat-spread-of-coronavirus/
- S. Saadati, “Reports of Inmates fleeing Parsilon Prison of Khorramabad, Western Iran”, People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, 21 March 2020, https://english.mojahedin.org/i/iran-parsilon-khorramabad-kuhdasht-irgc-20200321