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Iran's Economic Crisis Fuels Mass Exodus Of Afghan Migrants

More than 400,000 undocumented Afghan migrants left Iran for Afghanistan so far in 2018, many of them in buses from Herat, near the Iranian border, to Kabul. (illustrative photo)

KABUL -- Sporting a long, graying beard and a dusty scarf, Noor Mohammad exits a gritty restaurant in the Afghan capital, where he has been trying to find work for weeks.

Mohammad moved back to his native Kabul after living more than 10 years in Iran, where he washed cars and worked in construction to earn money to send back to his family of eight in Afghanistan.

Mohammad is among the hundreds of thousands of Afghan migrants who once flocked to Iran for work but who have returned to their war-torn homeland amid a crippling economic crisis. It is unclear if the returnees plan to stay in Afghanistan temporarily or for the long-term.

Iran's economic turmoil, which has sent unemployment soaring and the national currency plummeting -- has hit Afghan migrants particularly hard. The demand for work in the gray economy, where most Afghans work, has declined sharply. Iran's currency, the rial, has weakened against the afghani and is at record lows against the U.S. dollar, which is widely used in Afghanistan.