Human Rights, Solidarity with Refugees, Solidarity with Workers

There Is A Universal Solution to the Refugee Problem

Based on an article written by the author in Farsi for Anternasional (377)

During recent weeks, we have heard a lot of news coming from Afghanistan. We who deeply care for the people of Afghanistan and their decades-long misery have long lost hope for any positive news under the existing circumstances. The social and political forces dominating the scene today and of course the military powers that guarantee the existence of these forces are not of a nature that intends to or is capable of bringing anything positive to Afghanistan.

Immigration statistics are indicators of how things are in different countries. Mass population movements in our times primarily happen due to political and social reasons.

The UNHCR says that immigration from Afghanistan has reached new peaks during the past two years. The UNHCR statistics indicate that the majority of the emigrating Afghanis are young, educated men between 20 and 30 years old. The UHNCR does not explain why and how women are underrepresented in these statistics.

According to the UNHCR, it registered more than 27,000 Afghan asylum seekers in 2009 alone. These individuals had paid around US$20,000 to be smuggled out of Afghanistan (UNHCR-Washington Post).

Let us stay with these figures for a second, for they say a lot about the backgrounds of these mass movements.

According to the statistics, these immigrants, in the year 2009 alone, have collectively spent something around US$540,000,000 to “illegally” enter a country, perhaps Australia, New Zealand, Canada or even Turkey or Greece, with the hope of a new life in security, perhaps a job, savings, and the ability to help the rest of the family that they have left behind. But $20,000 dollars is a huge amount of money, especially in Afghanistan, with a total GNP of US$20,000,000,000. According to the latest estimates, the average annual salary of an Afghan worker is $426, which is only enough to buy 5 taftoon naan (flat bread) per day. The unemployment rate for the year 2010 is 35 percent and food prices are on the rise worldwide, with very dire consequences for Afghanistan.

The UNHCR or any other UN-related organization doesn’t analyze how these people manage to come up with such – for Afghanistan – astronomic sums, what the social consequences of this situation are, and their effects on the whole society. We have no doubt that these people have to go through hell to do that: selling the family’s belongings, the house, borrowing from whomever and at whatever rate and repayment conditions. In the majority of cases, this has devastating consequences for families, and one does not need to dig deep to discover that it is the women of Afghanistan who are on the front lines of paying the price for being born in this unbearable hellhole.

Here is a quote from RAWA NEWS showing only a fraction of what all this means in the bigger picture:
“A police official in the northern province of Jowzjan, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that according to official figures, 2,000 families in his province alone had resorted to prostitution over the past 10 years. The true figure is likely much higher.” (read more from RAWA)

The rise in emigration from Afghanistan to the degree that it has become the first-ranking country of origin, ahead of Somalia and Iraq in the UNHCR’s list, is directly connected to the political and social realities of Afghanistan. This increase happens at the same time that the number of American troops in Afghanistan has reached new heights and the US administration, which attacked and occupied the country to “fight the Taliban” terrorism, is now shifting the political objectives of war to press the Taliban to negotiations and “peace.” At the same time the generals of the Pentagon are talking about “another Vietnam,” Obama is wrestling with his generals to pull out of the “mess,” the hell that American foreign policy, with the help of its allies Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, created in the first place. They are planning to do this as soon as possible and at the cost of the Afghan people – and hence the peaks in the refugee statistics! The UNHCR has correctly read the trend towards hopelessness for the future in their migration statistics – so much so that the air all over Afghanistan stinks of even more bloodshed, lawlessness, misery, corruption and retrospection.

But the UNHCR statistics reveal only a fraction of the savagely-forced Afghan mass emigration. These 27,000 Afghans who, no matter the price, could come up with $20,000 dollars… these are the ones who have ended up in western countries, these are the ones who still bear the hope of better lives, and if being chained in Japanese prisons, or behind barbed wires in some uninhabited Australian wasteland awaiting the immigration procedure, “so be it.” The disproportional majority of the Afghans are not that “lucky”!

The majority of Afghan refugees end up in the countries that have land borders with Afghanistan. Pakistan and Iran are the two countries with millions of Afghan refugees. UNHCR estimates that there are 3,000,000 Afghans in Iran. The real number of them is unknown. The UNHCR is not so much troubled with these, their rights, their living conditions, their fate. Unlike in western countries, the refugees in Iran do not queue outside the UN headquarters in Tehran to demand refugee status! They do not desire to be registered. To what end should they do that? In the lawless Islamic Republic, where the non-immigrant, skilled, insured and employed worker goes for more than a year without receiving wages, and any talk of justice and human rights unleashes the Basij and plainclothes thugs on them, being a paperless, outlawed Afghan worker sometimes has its advantages!

The fact that the Islamic Republic’s hell is considered a paradise for the Afghan refugees, who in many cases are second- and third-generation born in Iran and are still paperless, illegal, and refugees, portrays the hellish realities of these two political entities (Afghanistan and Iran). The truth is that this lawlessness directly favours a segment of Iranian market. The Afghan refugees, all 3,000,000 of them, constitute the lowest paid layer of Iranian workers, as well as an army of unemployed, a desperate part of the society, an un-integrated part of the society . Some segments of Iranian industry have in the past decades been entirely dependent on a cheap Afghan labour force. Construction, building of luxury apartments, is one the segments that has thrived on “illegal” Afghan refugees. In these segments, a paperless Afghan worker has been the preferred worker. No civil status, no paper, no demand, and isolation from the society places an Afghan worker in an extremely vulnerable situation, results in lower expectations, lower wages, higher surplus value – an ideal target for inhumane exploitation …and of course negatively affects the accrual to the working class of its share of wealth it has created.

The UNHCR, apart from its usual worthless recommendations, the same ridiculous clichés that are issued more or less by default, has left millions of Afghan refugees without any effective protection, or any protection at all – left them somewhere between the Afghan government, which looks more like a bankrupt, empty shop in a ruined abandoned backward village than a government with political, social, and economic responsibilities, and the Islamic Republic, which savagely exploits, drains them of all human dignity, and when no longer needed, for example in economical crisis situations like the present one, rounds them up, treats them — children, women, men — like criminals, and forcefully “repatriates” them.

If the Afghan refugees in the west accept the inhumane behaviour of the western immigration authorities in the hope of better life, and are lucky enough to be come statistics in the UNHCR reports, what awaits them in Iran is an unbearable hell, barbaric exploitation, desperation; survival through prostitution, drug trafficking, and criminality; then prison and the favourite refugee policies of the Islamic Republic: lashing, amputation and execution. The UNHCR is bothered by the increase in the number of Afghan refugees in the west, but has not even for the sake of saving its reputation bothered to defend the human rights of Afghan asylum-seekers, has not bothered to react to forced repatriation of Afghan refugees to a war-torn hellhole, or to the execution of hundreds or perhaps thousand Afghan refugees in Vakil-Abad and elsewhere…

The UNHCR silence with regard to Afghan refugees in Iran is only an indicator of the incapability of the UN, its member states, and its many organizations, to solve the problems of our world – the problems that these, the guardians of this inhumane reality, have forced upon us. We the humane world can not afford to leave the initiative in their hands. These problems are solvable. The refugee problem, a problem with millions of victims, has a very simple solution. Last May Day, Iranian workers, in a joint resolution, simply and humanely offered a universal solution to this problem.

We can not afford to allow them to do what they are doing to our brothers and sisters in Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Australia, Greece… It is the time to unite and demand our human rights. There is no other way out.

Ahmad Fatemi
December 6, 2010
Misson Free Iran



  1. Pingback: There Is A Universal Solution to the Refugee Problem « NO HUMAN IS ILLEGAL - December 6, 2010

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