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Iran Extraditing Afghan Children Who Are Waste Pickers Amid Coronavirus Epidemic

Children picking garbage in Tehran streets. Undated, FILE PHOTO

Iranian officials say government entities are trying to send back working children who live in Iran back to their countries, primarily Afghanistan, due to the coronavirus epidemic.

Around three million Afghans live and work in Iran but there are also many children with or without parents who do menial jobs or are waste pickers.

Latest figures from 2019 indicate that four thousand children in Tehran spend their days scavenging garbage bins and dumps and 80 percent are foreigners.

The Children Protection Society in Tehran says these children live together in groups of 50-60 and the danger of coronavirus spreading among them is quite high.

Six months ago government agencies sent 400 of these children to three centers and now Tehran’s governor has announced that in a joint effort with Iran’s welfare agency to send back 380 children to their countries.

The director of Tehran’s welfare agency chief Saeed Aram has told Shahrvand newspaper on March 15 that the extradition of these children back to Afghanistan and Pakistan has started.

Shahrvand writes that these children will be taken from Tehran streets and “dumped” in Herat streets and other cities in Afghanistan. Some have parents in Afghanistan and some children will leave their families behind in Iran.

Meanwhile, another official of the welfare agency denied any plans to gather street children in protective centers, based on fears that those infected with coronavirus can transmit the disease to others. He also argued that many children live with their parents and the government cannot separate them from their families.

The general manager of the Children Protection Association is also opposed to sending back children working in streets, saying that if they are infected with coronavirus, that would simply spread the disease in other countries.

There are also reports that the government distributes “health packages” to children who are waste pickers. The packages include protective masks and disinfectants.