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Afghanistan: 100,000th refugee transferred

Briefing notes

Afghanistan: 100,000th refugee transferred

11 January 2002

UNHCR this week transferred its 100,000th refugee to the newly established camps in Pakistan. Eight new refugee camps in Pakistan's border regions are currently in use, plus the Killi Faizo transit site at the Chaman border crossing. The nearby camp of United Arab Emirates Red Crescent shelters 12,000 new Afghan refugees.

UNHCR estimates that more than 200,000 Afghans fled to Pakistan since September, many living with relatives or settling amongst long-time Afghan refugees in some of the sprawling Afghan settlements that dot the border region. Afghan refugees continue to come forward in Peshawar and Quetta asking for accommodation in one of UNHCR's camps.

In the last week more than 7,000 Afghans have fled the southern region around Kandahar and arrived at Pakistan's frontier, just outside UNHCR's Killi Faizo transit camp at Chaman. Most of the new Afghan refugees fled from makeshift camps and villages around the Afghan border town of Spin Boldak and from elsewhere in Kandahar province. They complain about the lack of security and food aid. Some have fled from as far north as Kunduz saying they fear the continuing bombing.

The new Afghan arrivals do not intend to stay in Pakistan, but they urgently need humanitarian aid. Pakistani authorities are not allowing them into the Killi Faizo transit site, and refuse to allow UNHCR to transfer them to camps in the area. We have distributed water and high protein biscuits from the World Food Programme to the group but the main cause for concern is the lack of shelter. The people have spent days on end in a windswept plain where temperatures at night dip below freezing. Two children encamped at the no-man's-land site died this week. We are appealing to Pakistan to allow them into our camps in the border region where they can be properly assisted.

The security situation in southern Afghanistan is reportedly extremely unstable. Afghans who cross the border speak of increasing banditry and the presence of armed Taliban in the area. Relief activities, suspended in the region since last September, have not resumed due to the continuing insecurity in the southern region, and aid supplies are reportedly running low.

In a separate development in north-western Pakistan, a firefight caused by a land dispute erupted Wednesday near one of UNHCR's newly opened border camps at Old Bagzai some 350 kilometres from Peshawar. The shoot-out between two local tribes left one Afghan man dead and several persons injured. The victim, an Afghan employed by a Pakistani NGO working on the camp, was outside the camp at the time of his death. The Pakistan government rushed paramilitary units to the area and the situation is now calm. Old Bagzai, UNHCR's remotest camp, hosts more than 5,700 recently relocated Afghans and was expected to be filled shortly with some 10,000 refugees. The relocation operation to Old Bagzai is temporarily on hold.