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Afghanistan: chaos at Chaman border crossing

Briefing notes

Afghanistan: chaos at Chaman border crossing

19 October 2001

More than 3,500 people crossed this morning from Afghanistan's Kandahar region into Pakistan at the Chaman border crossing, where the situation was described by monitors as chaotic. As of early afternoon, people were still crossing. Apparently fleeing in panic, Afghans were arriving with no food or belongings. In the chaos, some families had become separated. Many were waiting on the Pakistan side of the border, hoping to find missing family members who fled at the same time. The new arrivals report fleeing heavy bombardments in Kandahar overnight and this morning.

UNHCR is asking the Pakistan authorities for authorisation to provide water and food to the new arrivals at Chaman. We have a water tanker stationed at Chaman already.

This morning's influx comes on top of some 10,000 people who have arrived in Baluchistan province alone over the past six days. They include some 2,700 people who arrived Wednesday and Thursday at Chaman. Many of the Afghans who have arrived in recent days in Baluchistan are paying smugglers to arrange transport from the Kandahar region up to the frontier and across the border into Pakistan. Others are making their own way across.

UNHCR and its partners who are rushing to ready the Darra and Roghani sites near Quetta for a possible new influx have been tiptoeing around hundreds of live Soviet-era anti-tank mines and bombs littering the area, including some ordnance dumped in wells at the site, where the government has indicated UNHCR should establish new temporary refugee settlements.

In Pakistan's North West Frontier Province, UNHCR staff have identified 260 newly arrived Afghan families in the makeshift camp at Jalozai near Peshawar. The families - 2,300 people - have established themselves in a new corner of that site where they are living in miserable conditions. Some of them have relatives already in Jalozai. Many of the families are headed by women - either their husbands stayed behind in Afghanistan, or they are widows. UNHCR staff in Peshawar have fielded nine teams to begin to try to identify new arrivals and to evaluate what kinds of assistance they require.

New arrivals in NWFP report having to pay as much as 3,000 Rupees ($50) to get to Pakistan. They travel from Kabul to Jalalabad by vehicle and then take a 15-hour trek by foot across mountains with smugglers.

Meanwhile, UNHCR's 11th airlift into the region arrived this morning in Quetta with more than 10,000 blankets and some 6,200 plastic tarpaulins.

On funding, UNHCR has not received any additional cash contributions since October 8. We have received a total of $12 million of the $50 million needed for a first phase of up to 400,000 arrivals.