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Thousands Of Children Forced To Work, Beg In The Streets In Iran

File photo - Afghan children wander at the Shahid Nasseri refugee camp in Taraz Nahid village near the city of Saveh, some 130 kms southwest of the capital Tehran, February 8, 2015

Beggars in the Iranian capital city Tehran earn more than $350,000 a month, says the deputy of the Islamic Republic's Welfare Organization, Mohammad Reza Fazelinejad.

Speaking to the state-run Iran Students News Agency (ISNA), Fazelinejad said on Sunday, September 1, "By direct handouts to street urchins, child workers, and beggars, citizens of Tehran increase the number of vagrants, while their payments ultimately are taken away from the paupers."

Meanwhile, Fazelinejad claimed that 90% of street urchins and beggars in Tehran are foreigners.

Earlier, the deputy governor of Tehran had estimated the number of children peddling in the streets of the capital to be up to 4,000, while 80% of them were foreign nationals.

According to Tehran city councilor, Ms. Elham Fakhkhari, more than three million children are working across Iran, some of them as street peddlers and paupers.

In the meantime, the head of Iranian AIDS Research Center Minoo Mohraz said four to five percent of the children peddling in Iran have HIV.

The Islamic Republic's Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor, and Social Welfare warned last July that the number of child workers has substantially increased. Half a million 10-17-year-old children were either working or seeking a job in 2017, the ministry disclosed, before Iran’s economy took a turn for worse.

Reza Jafari, the director of the Iran Welfare Organization's office, who told state-run Iran Labour News Agency in April 2018, that "Child workers are so numerous, no organization can single-handedly cope with the problem."

According to UNICEF statistics from 2012, up to 11.4 percent of Iranian children are said to be doing illegal work. Although children under the age of fifteen are forbidden from working by Iranian law, organized crime and poverty lead to their exploitation.

Human trafficking makes tracking child labor immensely tricky. Gangs target homeless children, often from the families of undocumented refugees from Afghanistan. A number of these children are forced to work in agriculture and construction along with adult debt slaves.

Organized crime groups force children to work on the street begging or selling goods. Some reports have identified children as young as three who were coerced into this work. Many of the children also undergo physical and sexual abuse from the traffickers, as well as sometimes being forced into drug addiction.