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Pakistan: Afghan screening suspended following deportations

Briefing notes

Pakistan: Afghan screening suspended following deportations

31 August 2001

UNHCR finds the Pakistani authorities' decision to deport 132 people to Afghanistan on Tuesday unfortunate and regrettable, and has temporarily suspended the Afghan screening process. The deportations are a clear breach of UNHCR's agreement with the Pakistani government on the screening on Afghans in Pakistan, which specifies that there would be no deportations from Jalozai and Nasr Bagh camps during the screening process.

The 28 families, including many elderly people, women, children and infants, were in Jalozai camp in Pakistan where they would have been part of the screening exercise. Nine of the deported families had indeed already been pre-screened. Members of the minority Tajik ethnic group, the families are originally from Sar-i-Pul in Sanjcharak in northern Afghanistan, an area currently in conflict. UNHCR was able to meet with the families in Jalalabad in Afghanistan yesterday. Some of the people are malnourished and a number are sick. There are several unaccompanied children among the group, who have family members still in Jalozai. According to the families, they had been told they were to be moved to another camp inside Pakistan, but were instead taken to the border and were handed over to the Taliban. Now in Jalalabad, the families do not have the resources to go back to their homes or move elsewhere.

UNHCR has suspended screening for today, pending assurances from the Pakistani authorities that no more such deportations will take place. We expect to meet with the government later today and hope that the screening can resume on Monday.

Over 100,000 Afghans have been pre-screened since the process started on August 6. The second phase of screening began on Wednesday. UNHCR and Pakistani joint screening teams had developed a very good working relationship and the process had been going smoothly. In light of this positive cooperation, the deportations are all the more regrettable and incomprehensible.