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Iran, Afghanistan Discuss 'Forced' Drowning Of Migrants In Border River

Bodies of Afghan migrants allegedly forced into the border river and drowned by Iranian guards. May 2, 2020.
Bodies of Afghan migrants allegedly forced into the border river and drowned by Iranian guards. May 2, 2020.

The Foreign Ministry of Afghanistan on Sunday said the foreign ministers of Iran and Afghanistan held a phone coversation about "reports of torture and martyrdom of Afghan travelers" allegedly drowned by Iranian border guards.

In a statement published on Sunday, the Foreign Ministry of Afghanistan said the two ministers have underlined their commitment to starting a joint probe into the incident" as well as "designating investigation teams".

According to the Iranian official government news agency IRNA Foreign Miniter Mohammad-Javad Zarif assured his counterpart that Iran will form a team to probe the incident and that "in-location investigations will start soon".

The Afghan Foreign Ministry statement said the aim of the investigation was to adopt measures to prevent such incidents from happening in the future.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Friday, May 8, ordered a "thorough" probe into the drowning of several migrants after Iranian border guards allegedly forced them into a river last week. Afghan authorities say some of the migrants who drowned in Harirud river while illegally crossing into neighboring Iran bear signs of torture.

According to a local official in Afghanistan, 18 of the 55 migrants trying to cross the border into Iran on May 2 who were allegedly forced into the river, drowned and their bodies were retrieved from but the fate of six others is still unknown. A member of the Afghan Parliament claimed that 45 out of 57 Afghans who had tried to enter Iran had drowned.

Iranian officials have dismissed the allegations that Afghan citizens were tortured on Iranian soil and forced into the border river to drawn while expressing regret over the deaths.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last Wednesday that he was shocked by reports of the incident.

According to Iranian officials, there are 1.5 million Afghan refugees in the country but hundreds of thousands more Afghans reside and work in Iran, most of them as wage laborers. Iran considers them illegal migrants but is tolerant about their stay because they form a cheap source of labor for Iran's construction projects and agriculture.

Tens of thousands of Afghan workers returned to Afghanistan after the coronavirus outbreak, but as restrictions ease in badly hit Iran, many are returning in search of employment.