Afghanistan Humanitarian Update No. 6
At a Glance:
- Following talks between UNHCR and the provincial government in Pakistan's Balochistan Province, UNHCR staff in Quetta hope to start screening new Afghan arrivals beginning Tuesday.
- UNHCR staff report large numbers of Afghans blocked at the Chaman border crossing with Pakistan.
- UNHCR and Iranian government identify possible refugee sites near the Iran-Afghanistan border.
Following talks today in Quetta between UNHCR and the provincial government in Balochistan, UNHCR staff in Quetta hope to start screening new Afghan arrivals beginning Tuesday. The start of the screening operation might be delayed by a few days as authorities transmit the authorization to proceed at the border. The understanding reached on Monday that registration can begin is a positive sign that thousands of Afghans waiting at the Chaman border will soon be able to move.
UNHCR plans to transport Afghans by truck from the Chaman crossing point, where they have been waiting in the desert sun since fleeing their homes, to a site a few kms from the border. There, they will be quickly screened and then moved to an empty Afghan refugee settlement at Dara, about a dozen kilometres from the frontier.
The old Dara settlement currently houses only a few Afghan families who have been staying there for some time already. The site has a good water source, and UNHCR staff believe it can accommodate up to 20,000 new arrivals.
UNHCR will oversee the transfer and screening operation that will move the desperate Afghans from Chaman to the registration site and onwards to Dara. UNHCR has already delivered 2,000 tents and 2,000 kitchen sets to Quetta, enough for at least 16,000 people. The UN World Food Programme will provide food for Afghans arriving in Balochistan. UNICEF and the World Health Organization will also provide assistance. UNHCR will offer immediate health assistance at the registration site, and a medical tent is also being assembled at the Dara settlement so that the new arrivals will receive adequate medical care.
UNHCR staff based in Quetta travelled to the Chaman crossing point on Sunday. They found large numbers of Afghans blocked at the frontier by Pakistan authorities. Most of the Afghans had fled the city of Kandahar following the suspension of many humanitarian activities a week ago when international aid workers withdrew, and amid fears that the city might be targeted following the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US.
There are no reports of new arrivals of Afghans in Iran so far. UNHCR, together with the Iranian government, continues to plan for possible movements of people fleeing toward Iran. Following a three-day joint UNHCR-Iranian government mission to the border areas of Khorasan province, seven possible camp sites in the border areas were identified for potential new Afghan arrivals. UNHCR staff together with Iran's Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrant Affairs (BAFIA) are visiting more potential camp sites today in the Khaf, Tayebad, and Dogharoun areas.
In Iran's Sistan-Baluchistan Province, the provincial government has established an Emergency Board within the General Governor's Office to tackle possible displacement of Afghans. Two possible sites in the border areas have been identified by the government and the Iranian Red Crescent Society.