UNHCR to send aid into southern Afghanistan in an effort to stem refugee flow
QUETTA, Pakistan, Feb. 21 (UNHCR) - With an increasing number of Afghans massing at the Chaman crossing in Pakistan, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said Thursday it will send emergency aid into southern Afghanistan in an effort to stem the flow.
The agency said it had begun moving supplies from Peshawar to Chaman for delivery to some 25,000 persons in Kandahar Province. The initial shipment, which will be taken across the border next week following the Eid holiday, is to include 23,000 blankets, 13,000 quilts, and 5,000 tents.
On Tuesday the U.N. agency expressed serious concern about the new wave of refugees arriving at the Chaman border crossing, estimating that between 15,000 and 20,000 Afghans are waiting to enter the nearby Killi Faizo staging site. More than 50,000 Afghans have crossed the border into Pakistan since January 1, but the flow has been particularly heavy in the last ten days, with the number of refugees rising from 5,000 to about 20,000 during that period.
The refugee agency said the International Committee of the Red Cross has agreed to provide it with 1,000 tents for use by the Afghans now at Chaman.
"Some of Chaman's Afghans - many of whom have been waiting their turn to enter Killi Faizo for several weeks - are ethnic Pashtuns fleeing human rights abuses," UNHCR said Thursday in a statement from its headquarters in Geneva. "Others are Kuchi nomads who say that while they stopped at Spin Boldak's displaced persons camps, they failed to find sufficient aid so they opted to cross the border to seek assistance in the U.N. refugee agency's new sites."
UNHCR is relocating as many as 2,000 Afghans daily from Killi Faizo to one of the ten new refugee camps it operates in Pakistan's Baluchistan Province further inside the border. The camps, which currently shelter about 150,000 people, were opened after the September attacks on the United States.