Thousands of Afghan refugees continue to arrive in Pakistan
CHAMAN, Pakistan, Feb. 13 (UNHCR) - Thousands of refugees, citing insufficient aid, insecure conditions and banditry in some parts of Afghanistan, continue to arrive at the Chaman border crossing in Pakistan while more than 143,000 others have spontaneously returned home since New Year's Day.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said Wednesday that about 30,000 refugees had been recorded in its new camps along the border since January 1. On Wednesday, the refugee agency registered more than 1,500 persons at its Killi Faizo transit centre at Chaman.
Several thousand others remain outside the site, with United Nations agencies supplying them with water, high-protein biscuits, and blankets. The new arrivals have to wait as long as two weeks in the border zone before they are registered and allowed into one of the UNHCR-run camps.
"Pakistani authorities continue to respond to the humanitarian plight of these desperate Afghans arriving at Chaman, but clearly more must be done inside Afghanistan to alleviate the reasons for this fresh exodus," the agency said in a statement issued at its headquarters in Geneva Wednesday.
The agency said that of the 143,000 people who had spontaneously returned to Afghanistan, some 30,000 did so via the Islam Qala crossing point on the country's western border with Iran. The vast majority, however, crossed homewards over the Chaman and Torkham points in Pakistan.
"Most of these spontaneous returnees are from Afghanistan's minority ethnic communities, principally ethnic Tajiks," the agency said. "Many of the spontaneous returnees over the past weeks are single men who apparently return home on a regular basis regardless of developments inside Afghanistan."
While the U.N. refugee agency estimates that 3.5 million Afghan refugees are sheltered in Iran and Pakistan, government officials from those countries say the actual figures are much higher. Their count, however, include those living outside the U.N.'s assistance channels, some of whom have lived outside their country even prior to the 1979 Soviet invasion.