For many reasons, most notably the lack of security, chaos, and turmoil, Afghanistan, the neighbouring country of Iran in which the Iranian regime and its Revolutionary Guards played a major role in the loss of security there, is seeing, in addition to widespread poverty and lack of employment opportunities, some Afghans heading to Iran in hope of finding work and seeking a better life. The Iranian regime has found in this situation an opportunity to be exploited in many ways for its benefit. Iran sought to keep that stream of asylum emigration flowing, and deliberately pushed to make possible Afghans’ entry to Iran in legal and illegal ways, and for each way there are purposes to be achieved and gains to be derived.

The Iranian regime exploits the non-Iranian nationals who live in the country politically, economically and militarily, and leaves no alternative for them. According to officials’ statements, there are millions of Afghan asylum seekers who entered Iranian territory either legally or illegally, in addition to many Iraqis, Syrians, Lebanese and other nationalities. The Iranian government is trying to spread the idea, especially in the current era of President Hassan Rouhani, that there are millions of refugees in Iran, and the Iranian government finds it difficult to contain them and provide assistance and aid, and that it is a great expense for them.

The Iranian regime sees the refugees in its territory as a potential useful catalyst which can be used in its sectarian wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Iran has established camps for these refugees, to train them and turn them into terrorist militias, fighting here and there. In order to guarantee their acceptance, Iran manipulates religious feeling and entices them with money, jobs, or granting them citizenship, and sometimes recruits them by threats and intimidation of deportation from the country should they refuse to fight. By these means, the Iranian regime is exploiting refugees militarily to force them to fight alongside its troops and allies in Syria and Iraq.

What is interesting is that the Iranian regime is also using three million Afghan refugees in its territory as a bargaining tool to exert political pressure on the Government of Afghanistan, while also recruiting some refugees as spies and sending them to neighbouring countries for the purposes of espionage and sabotage.

Economically, the Iranian regime tries to communicate with the major international organizations, especially the United Nations, in order to obtain aid and international support for the refugees on its territory. Iran sees the refugees as a source of revenue, to bring in millions of dollars that are in fact siphoned off to the treasury of the Revolutionary Guards, which is using it to fund the killing of innocent people across several oppressed countries.

In order to obtain as much financial aid as possible, Iranian officials are exploiting the refugees and taking advantage of their presence in the country. In the last visit to Tehran a few days ago by Filippo Grandi, the High Commissioner of the United Nations for Refugees (UNHCR), who was received by a number of Iranian officials headed by the Foreign Minister, the Minister of Interior, and the Minister of Health, the Iranian officials’ demands were all as one, namely for increasing international support for the refugees in Iran. The Iranian Minister of Health, Hassan Qazi Zada Hashemi, demanded at a meeting with Grandi greater international support in regard to the health insurance of Afghan refugees, stressing that Afghans do not enjoy any insurance inside Iran and that the conditions of their medical care are very difficult. Qazi Zada added that there are a lot of Afghan, Iraqi, Syrian, and Lebanese refugees who live in Iran who are facing many difficulties and are suffering under the harshness of their lives, and the Iranian Government bears the brunt of the costs and expenses incurred by them. The minister added that there are more than three million Afghan nationals who have live in Iran for some time, and the Commission should offer full support to the one million Afghans who are living in Iran legally.

Iran’s interior minister, Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, also said during a meeting with Grandi that Iran has asked the United Nations to assist it in returning the refugees and migrants to their home countries, and added that the UNHCR must conduct continuous and regular visits to check on the refugees and there must be persistent meetings with the Iranian officials to discuss the situation of migrants and refugees. Fazli called on the Commission to provide more health, education and livelihood support for refugees throughout their presence in Iran.

Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, also said when he received the High Commissioner of the UNHCR, Filippo Grandi, that the volume of international aid Iran has received for hosting refugees on its territory is very little, and pointed to the existence of a large number of refugees who live in Iran where the government bears heavy costs in order to spend on them, especially in the field of education, Zarif asked for more support for Iran in this regard.

Such constant requests from the Iranian side suggest to what extent of exploitative such governments are using the asylum case economically, and how they try as much as possible to gain money, which they put more than a third of it in the state treasury rather than giving it to the refugees who suffer on the Iranian territory because of the exploitation of the regime and the Revolutionary Guards.

Al Mezmaah Studies & Research Centre

21 June 2016