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Afghanistan emergency: refugees fear being forced to fight

Briefing notes

Afghanistan emergency: refugees fear being forced to fight

26 October 2001

Afghan families are continuing to cross the Pakistan border in to the Killi Faizo staging camp near Chaman in Baluchistan. Early today, it was reported that around 12 families, most travelling on tractors, had either already entered the staging camp or were on their way from the Chaman crossing point. Two injured persons also reportedly crossed into Pakistan this morning. The local medical relief agency EDHI maintains two ambulances at the frontier to ferry the sick and injured to Quetta.

On Thursday evening, UNHCR and other aid agency staff continued distributing food and other relief items in Killi Faizo until 10 pm. All the new arrivals have now received enough World Food Programme (WFP) wheat flour, lentils and vegetable oil to last until Saturday, when a new distribution will take place. The new arrivals have also received kerosene and kitchen sets, in addition to the tents, plastic sheets and blankets distributed earlier.

On Thursday, nine persons who were apparently injured in bombing raids crossed at Chaman and were transferred to Quetta by EDHI. They said they came from a village called Borai, about 25 km south of Kandahar.

An ethnic Uzbek family crossed at Chaman on Thursday, arriving from Sar-i-Pul - a town not far from Mazar-i-Sharif in the far north of Afghanistan. They said that they fled the area because they feared forced conscription by Northern Alliance forces. Many of the refugees crossing at Chaman have told UNHCR that they fear being forced to fight, either for the Taliban or their opponents, and say that they just want to finally live in peace. Such reports underscore the need for open borders in countries neighbouring Afghanistan for those in need of protection and assistance.

Another five men who crossed on Thursday and came to Killi Faizo said that 100 or more families from the Mazar-i-Sharif area, including their own, were on the other side in the Afghan town of Spin Boldak. Other new arrivals talk of a total of 400-500 families sheltering in Spin Boldak.

So far, UNHCR has received $38 million in cash contributions, including new contributions of $5 million from the Netherlands and $107,000 from the Czech Republic. We need $50 million for the first phase of the operation for up to 400,000 possible new arrivals in Pakistan, Iran and elsewhere.