People-smuggling thrives on bribes to Taliban

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Despite an official ban, the smuggling of undocumented migrants to neighbouring Iran and Pakistan continues to rise with the help of Taliban border guards and officials willing to look the other way.

The Taliban has tried to stem the flow of Afghans attempting to escape economic ruin and persecution. But, despite an official ban, the smuggling of undocumented migrants to neighbouring Iran and Pakistan continues to rise with the help of Taliban border guards and officials willing to look the other way, RFE/RL reported.

As Afghanistan’s economy collapses, its citizens continue to leave the country en masse in a trend that began to rise with the announced withdrawal of foreign forces in the spring of 2021 and which spiked after the Taliban seized power in August.

Iran, a major destination country, has clamped down by beefing up security along its 900 km border with Afghanistan and deporting tens of thousands of Afghans, RFE/RL reported.

Taliban authorities in the southwestern province of Nimroz, which abuts Afghanistan’s borders with Iran and Pakistan and serves as a major migration hub, have banned human smuggling in an effort to stem the outflow.

But smugglers say that the hurdles are nothing that cannot be overcome by bribing Taliban guards and officials willing to look the other way to keep business booming, RFE/RL reported.

The Taliban, which has urged Afghans not to leave the country, has tried to cut off migration routes and authorities in Nimroz have issued bans against the smuggling of people to Iran.

Mawlawi Sardar Mohammad Ayubi, the Taliban’s police chief in Nimroz, recently announced a local ban on illegal immigration in an audiotape released by the province’s Information and Culture Department.

From April 9 to May 6, nearly 230,000 Afghans flowed out of the country, mostly bound for neighboring Iran and Pakistan, according to the latest statistics from the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM).

In the past year, more than 1.6 million Afghans crossed into Iran, according to the IOM, the vast majority of them undocumented migrants who seek work there or who intend to use Iran as a jumping-off point to migrate to Turkey and Europe.

Iran, which is mired in its own economic crisis amid skyrocketing inflation and rising food prices, has expressed alarm at the number of undocumented Afghans on its soil, putting the number at some 5 million people, RFE/RL reported.

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