| ||Iran steps up expulsion of Afghan refugees|
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HERAT CITY/KABUL - The Iranian government has stepped up the process of forcibly expelling Afghan refugees, officials said on Tuesday.
Until two weeks ago, 900 refugees were forced and 100 returned to Afghanistan voluntarily on a daily basis, the Herat director of refugee affairs said.
But on Thursday, 200 Afghan refugees were forced from the neighbouring country, Hamidullah Khatibi told Pajhwok Afghan News.
Soaring food prices and the depreciating Iranian currency, something resulting from international sanctions, had forced Tehran to drive out Afghan refugees.
The returnees complained that Iranian police beat them before sending them back to Afghanistan, the director added.
Those forced out by Iran are living in the Ansar Camp, where the Pajhwok reporter saw 150 returnees, including 15 children and 20 women. Some of the children do not know which part of Afghanistan they belong to.
Hamidullah, 14, said his mother was an Afghan citizen while his father belonged to Turkey. They lived in the Mashhad city of Iran, but police ejected him from the country.
The boy, who has been living in the camp for five days now, contacted his family in Mashhad with the help of the United National High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). However, he has no idea of how to be reunited with his family.
A spokesman for the Iranian embassy in Kabul denied Afghan refugees were thrashed and insulted. Te illegal refugees, who resisted repatriation, might be unhappy with the Iranian police, he added.
Currently, 900,000 legal Afghans and 1.5 million illegal refugees are living in the neighbouring country, according to official statistics.