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Afghanistan: fresh arrivals in Pakistan concerned for their safety

Briefing notes

Afghanistan: fresh arrivals in Pakistan concerned for their safety

29 January 2002

UNHCR staff report that thousands of Afghans have crossed into Pakistan in recent days, with more than 3,500 Afghans - some 700 families - just inside the frontier at the Chaman border crossing. Mainly ethnic Pashtuns, the new Afghan refugees are from cities in northern Afghanistan like Kunduz, Mazar-i-Sharif and Herat and began filtering across the border beginning late last week. Some of the new arrivals say that they have been on the road for as long as two months. Others say they come from Kandahar. While some say they are leaving Afghanistan due to a lack of food aid, most of the fresh refugees say their main reason for fleeing was concern for their safety. This new influx at Chaman is the second this year: more than 13,000 Afghans who arrived earlier in the month were shifted to new UNHCR-run camps in the region. With the co-operation of the Pakistani authorities, UNHCR on Monday registered some 600 of the new arrivals - 95 families - at the Killi Faizo transit camp, and began shifting the new refugees to the Darra site further inland. UNHCR Quetta-based staff plan cross-border missions into southern Afghanistan's Kandahar Province to distribute aid in a bid to help Afghans stay within their homeland. Despite some recent improvements in Afghanistan, security for humanitarian aid workers remains a major problem, and many areas of the country remain off limits or under the strictest security guidelines. UNHCR currently operates 13 new refugee camps and one transit site in Pakistan. They house a total of more than 151,000 new Afghan refugees. Meanwhile, spontaneous returns from Iran and Pakistan to Afghanistan continue at a rate of about 3,000 a day. Since the start of this year, an estimated 72,000 have returned.