High Commissioner to visit Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan
High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers leaves tomorrow (Saturday) on a 10-day mission to Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. It will be his first visit to the region as High Commissioner. Iran and Pakistan between them host nearly 4 million refugees - one third of the entire world's refugee population. Iran has 1.9 million refugees, including 1.3 million Afghans and half a million Iraqis. Pakistan has 2 million Afghan refugees. Afghans have been the single largest group of refugees in UNHCR's care for 20 years in succession. Large numbers of new arrivals have crossed both borders in recent months.
In addition to the refugee situation in Iran and Pakistan, Mr. Lubbers will be taking a first-hand look at the ever-growing caseload of internally-displaced people inside Afghanistan - including at least half a million since last summer alone. He will visit refugee camps in Iran and Pakistan and the huge Maslaqh IDP camp - now holding some 100,000 people - in Herat in Western Afghanistan. He is scheduled to meet President Mohammad Khatami in Iran and Chief Executive Gen. Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan, as well as holding discussions with senior ministers, other UN agencies, donors and NGOs.
With an active conflict, colossal displacement, major human rights abuses, drought, a looming famine and a devastated economy, Afghanistan is currently facing perhaps the most disastrous humanitarian crisis in the entire world.