Kabul :The flow of Afghans forced to leave Iran turned into a flood in 2018, with a record nearly 800,000 coming back as renewed United States sanctions sent the Iranian currency into freefall and fuelled inflation.
The 773,125 voluntary returnees and deportees was 66 per cent more than in 2017 and the trend is expected to continue, said Laurence Hart, the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) chief of mission in Afghanistan.
“The reason why people are coming back is because of the reduced economic opportunities in the region… including Iran,” Hart told AFP.
The 2018 figure was the highest since the IOM began systematically recording the volume of returnees to Afghanistan in 2012.
In contrast, just under 33,000 Afghans came back from Pakistan, where many have lived since fleeing the Soviet invasion of 1979.
Desperate Afghans have been paying smugglers to cross the porous border with Iran for years in search of work to support struggling families.
Smugglers can charge $300-$500 per person, turning it into a multi-million industry.
An estimated 1.5 million to two million “undocumented” Afghans are in Iran, the United Nations’ refugee agency said in September, citing government estimates.
Another one million are registered as refugees.
Many of the families of migrants are farmers who have been suffering through Afghanistan’s worst drought in living memory, compounding the misery caused by 17 years of conflict and underscoring their reliance on the remittances.
“There were no jobs in Afghanistan so I had to go to Iran for work,” said Mohammad Sarwar, 39, who worked as a labourer for four months before he was arrested by Iranian police and deported.
“If I can make some money here, I will never go back to Iran,” he said at the IOM’s busy transit centre in the western Afghan city of Herat, roughly 140 kilometres from the border.
Abdul Hakim, 28, had just found a job in Iran after a month of searching when he was detained and kicked out. He faces an uncertain future as he tries to find a way to support his wife and three young children.
“The situation is very bad in Afghanistan,” said Hakim, who comes from the northwestern province of Badghis, which has been hit hard by the drought.
Some, like 75-year-old Naseruddin, who only gave one name, have returned to Afghanistan penniless.
“I was there for five months but the police caught me,” he said. “I have no money on me.”
Nearly half of the returnees — 358,065 — volunteered to come back to Afghanistan after watching their earnings shrivel up and jobs disappear.
Iran’s rial lost around half its value against the dollar last year after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal.
That move triggered a reimposition of tough sanctions on the Islamic republic, which have exacerbated the country’s economic problems.
26 killed as tour bus catches fire in China
Beijing: A tour bus caught fire in central China’s Hunan Province killing 26 people, local authorities said. The 28 injured in the incident were rushed to three local hospitals for treatment. Among them the condition of five were state to be critical, state-run Xinhua news agency quoted local officials as saying.
The accident occurred around when the 59-seater bus from neighbouring Henan province suddenly caught fire on a highway in Hanshou County in the city of Changde.
The bus had 53 passengers, two drivers and a tour guide at the time of the incident.
The two drivers were detained and an investigation into the cause of the accident is underway.
The incident came a day after 64 people lost their lives while 640 were injured in a powerful explosion at a chemical plant in eastern China. The blast occurred on Thursday following a fire in a fertilizer factory in a chemical industrial park in Yancheng, Jiangsu province, according to the government of Xiangshui county.
New Zealand bans Christchurch terrorist’s manifesto
Wellington: New Zealand has banned the possession and distribution of a manifesto believed to be written by the lone terrorist who carried out the March 15 Christchurch mosques carnage where 50 people were killed, officials said on Saturday.
The Office of Film and Literature Classification announced that the document is objectionable under the law, reports CNN.
The so-called “manifesto” of Brenton Tarrant, the 28-year-old Australian charged with the massacre, spans more than 80 pages and is filled with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rants.
“There is an important distinction to be made between ‘hate speech,’ which may be rejected by many right-thinking people, but which is legal to express, and this type of publication, which is deliberately constructed to inspire further murder and terrorism,” said New Zealand’s Chief Censor David Shanks. “It crosses the line.”
The document was posted on social media and was sent to the office of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern just before the shooting began.
On Thursday, Shanks called on the public to delete any copies, as well as online posts or links to the document.
People can also report any social media posts, links or websites.
“New Zealanders can all play a part in denying those who exhort hatred, killing and terror,” Shanks said.
“Do not support the murderous objectives of its author by republishing or distributing it.”
Earlier this week, authorities banned footage of the fatal shootings, including edited clips and still images.
Death toll climbs to 64 in one of China’s worst industrial blasts in years
Beijing: The death toll climbed to 64 in one of the worst industrial accidents of China in recent times which knocked down buildings, tossed children into air and caused a tremor equivalent to a magnitude-3.0 earthquake, officials said Saturday. The officials said that 24 others were missing.
The explosion occurred after a fire in the fertilizer factory in Jiangsu province on Thursday, according to the government of Xiangshui county. Thirty-four people were in a critical condition and 73 seriously injured, state-run China Daily reported. The death toll is expected to rise as several people have been critically injured.
Over 640 people were injured in the incident. More than 3,000 workers and around 1,000 residents have been relocated to safe places. The Ministry of Emergency Management said that 88 people were rescued from the scene.
Such is the scale of the devastation that the entire industrial park in the Yancheng resembled an area struck by a massive earthquake with almost all buildings demolished in one go.
It is the worst industrial accident since the massive explosion rocked the port area of Tianjin in 2015 in which 173 people were killed. The China earthquake centre reported an earthquake of 3.0 magnitude during the time of the blast. An aerial video posted by China Daily which provided the first detailed view of the area showed shocking images of the blast which has destroyed the entire neighbourhood, causing an extensive damage showcasing the destructive side of China’s unbridled industrial development.
Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical plant, where the blast took place, was flattened and 16 neighbouring factories were left with varying degrees of damage. The impact smashed windows and uprooted roofs of some buildings and reduced others to rubble. Officials claimed that the rivers outside the chemical industrial park were not polluted.