Kabul, 4 May 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Afghan officials hit out at Iran on Sunday, blaming its border forces for the drownings of up to 38 Afghan migrants who had been seeking to enter the country.
Iranian officials are accused of forcing around 50 migrants into a river at Iran’s border with the province of Herat in western Afghanistan on Saturday.
Twelve were able to swim to safety, provincial council member Ahmad Karokhi said, adding that seven bodies have been recovered from the river in Gulran district.
Some 31 people have disappeared without a trace, Karokhi said.
The provincial governor of Herat, Sayed Wahid Qatali, pointed the finger towards Iranian security forces in a tweet decrying the deaths. “Our people, who you put in the river, were not Osama [bin Laden]. One day we will settle this.”
The Afghan Foreign Ministry said in a statement that a delegation led by the deputy minister for political affairs has been appointed to fully investigate the incident, promising “necessary” action to follow.
The Iranian government categorically denied the accusations.
“We deeply regret this accident, but the incident occurred on Afghan and not Iranian territory,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told the Isna news agency on Sunday.
Iran’s border guards have also denied any involvement in the incident, Mousavi said. Iran would nevertheless co-operate with Afghan authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the incident, he added.
For its part, the Afghan Taliban called on the Iranian government to punish the perpetrators and ensure such an incident does not happen in the future.
All of the drowned and missing victims were residents of Herat province, according to the local councilors.
Ongoing conflicts, extreme poverty, and high rates of unemployment force thousands of Afghans to illegally cross the border to Iran every year.
According to UN reports, there are currently close to 1 million registered Afghan refugees living in Iran, while the country hosts another 2 million undocumented Afghans.