HERAT -- The Iranian regime is continuing to ramp up deportations of Afghan refugees, even as winter approaches.
The number of Afghans deported from Iran since the beginning of November via the Islam Qala border crossing in Herat province has surpassed 4,000 people per day, nearly double the rate of earlier months, according to Abdullah Qayoumi, who is in charge of refugee affairs at Islam Qala crossing.
"The figures have doubled now as compared to one month ago," he told AFP this week, saying numbers leapt from 1,500–2,000 per day to 3,000–4,500.
"Iran has not announced [that it is deporting Afghans], but continuously there is no decline in our figures; they are only increasing day by day," Qayoumi said.
The move comes as Pakistan also announced it would deport all illegally residing Afghans from its territory, Qayoumi told Salaam Times.
Pakistan has put that number at about 1.7 million.
"The mistreatment and torture of Afghan refugees at the hands of Iranian military have intensified significantly," said Qayoumi.
"Many refugees come to us with fractured arms and legs as they have been beaten by the Iranian police, and some have even lost their eyesight," he said. "The Iranian police, in violation of all international laws, torture Afghan refugees with utter brutality."
"Iranian authorities have repeatedly announced that they would deport Afghans living illegally in Iran, but some of the deported Afghans have passports and valid visas," Qayoumi added.
"Iranian police officers brutally tear up the passports and residence permits of refugees and deport them to Afghanistan."
Women and children who have been separated from their families and deported alone are among the Afghans who have returned from Iran, Qayoumi said.
Rafiullah Zaheri, 26, a resident of Sar-e-Pul province who was recently deported by the Iranian regime, was a laborer in Mazandaran province.
He said he was detained in the middle of the night alongside 10 others by police who subjected the group to torture and beatings.
"The Iranian police officers were very brutal. They tied us hand and foot and beat us so much," he said Saturday (November 4) in Islam Qala.
"They treated us like animals and were very violent. The police took our money and cell phones and fed us bread and water for two days and nights in the prison."
"There has been heightened pressure on refugees in the last couple of days. The police detain and beat Afghans wherever they find them," he added.
"Afghans cannot go out in Iran. They cannot even buy bread from bakeries."
Brutal night raids
Zaheri is not the only Afghan who was picked up by Iranian police in a night raid.
Abdul Ghafar, 26, who was recently deported from Iran and goes by his first name only, said that police detained him and his four friends at night while sleeping at 2am at his workplace and sent them to jail after severe torture.
"The police chained us hand and foot after detaining us in our sleep and beat us with hammers and iron bars. They kept us in detention for two days and nights and brutally mistreated us. They would not even give us bread and water, saying that we should die," he said.
"The detention of Afghans has intensified in recent days in Iran. It wasn't like this before, but now police enter the homes of Afghans at night and brutally beat them -- including children and women -- and deport them," he added. "Across the country, Iranian taxis do not give rides to Afghans, nor do bakeries sell them bread."
Life for Afghans has become very difficult across Iran lately, and it is impossible for them to stay there anymore, Ghafar said.
Omid, 23, another deported Afghan refugee, said he was denied medical attention after being beaten.
"We were asleep at night when the police raided our room. They first severely punched and kicked me and three of my roommates, then transferred us to a detention center," he said. "Part of my neck was torn up and was bleeding. I pleaded with them to take me to a hospital to stop the bleeding, but they ... instead moved to me a detention center."
"I am still injured and have to go to a hospital when I reach Herat city."
The Iranian police also seized all of the group's money, leaving them without a single afghani to make it home, Omid said.
Extortion by Iranian employers
Amid the surge of deportations, Iranian employers are turning over Afghans to authorities rather than paying overdue wages.
Sanaullah Karimi, 25, a resident of Takhar province who was recently deported from Iran, said that he worked on a construction site for two months.
Instead of paying his wages, his Iranian employer called the police on him.
"I worked so hard days and nights," he said, recalling that his employer owed him about $950 for his two months' work.
"When I asked my employer for my wages ... he called the police and had me deported," he said.
"Many Iranian employers cheat you. They do not pay Afghan workers," he added. "Employers take advantage of the heightened police pressure on refugees."
When the police picked him up, he had no chance to pick his cell phone, clothes and some cash at his workplace, Karimi said.
Juma Gul Hussaini, 27, a resident of Herat province who was also deported from Iran, had worked for a month in a factory in Esfahan city.
"When the police detained me at my workplace, I asked my employer for my wages," he said.
"He responded that I was working there illegally, so that I was not entitled to my wages. The police violently removed me from the factory and transferred me to the detention center."
"I had my Iranian residence card, but when I showed it to the police, they tore it up and detained me, saying that no Afghan has the right to live in Iran," he added.