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Cablegate: Iran Suspends Deportations in Face of Strong Afghan

VZCZCXRO4415
OO RUEHIK RUEHPW RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #0156 0170239
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 170239Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2446
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS KABUL 000156

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SCA/FO DAS CAMP, SCA/A, PRM
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC FOR JWOOD
OSD FOR SHIVERS
CG CJTF-82, POLAD, JICCENT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREF PREL PHUM IR AF
SUBJECT: Iran Suspends Deportations In Face Of Strong Afghan
Government Protests

Ref: Kabul 97

1. (SBU) Iran has suspended its deportation of Afghans after the
Afghan government protested in the media and summoned the Iranian
charge d'affaires twice to demand a halt to the mid-winter
expulsions. In the first two weeks of January, Iran deported more
than 9,000 Afghans, who were forced over the border into the worst
weather that western Afghanistan has seen in many years. While most
deportees are single men working illegally in Iran and not normally
considered "vulnerable" by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR), the extreme weather conditions prompted UNHCR to provide
humanitarian assistance and transportation from the Islam Qala
border to Herat City. The Afghan Red Crescent and U.S. Forward
Operating Base Camp Stone, working with the Afghan National Army,
also provided blankets and transportation to deportees facing
potentially lethal conditions at the border.

(2) (SBU) At UNHCR's urging, the Afghan government has been
increasingly vocal about Iran's harsh deportation policy. Iran
deported 365,000 unregistered Afghans in 2007 and recently announced
it would incarcerate unregistered Afghans (Ref A). As heavy snow
caused many human and livestock fatalities in the Herat region, a
January 9 Kabul Times article quoted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
spokesman as saying the MFA had discussed the issue with the Iranian
charge d'affaires and sent a letter expressing concern. The media
continued to cover the daily deportations, and on January 16, the
Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Kabi Farahi again summoned
the Iranian charge, reportedly calling the deportations a "human
tragedy." The Afghan government's outspokenness contrasts with its
relatively passive stance in spring 2007, despite international
protests against the deportation surge. The government's lack of
response led to the parliament passing no confidence votes against
the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Refugees and
Repatriation.

3. (SBU) Department of Refugees and Repatriation officials in Herat
confirmed Radio Azadi reports on the afternoon of January 16 that
Iran indeed suspended the deportations. The Afghan MFA has not yet
been officially informed, and no details are available as to how
long the suspension will last. The Afghan-Iran-UNHCR Tripartite
Commission meets in late January in Kabul, where Afghan and UNHCR
will undoubtedly argue for suspension until warmer weather arrives
in March. UNHCR is likely to encourage the Afghans and the new
Minister for Refugees and Repatriation to continue to take a strong
stance on deportations in these and future negotiations.

WOOD

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