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UN High Commissioner for refugees Ruud Lubbers
UN High Commissioner for refugees Ruud Lubbers

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST: It's thought there could be millions of refugees in the event of any US retaliation. Many Afghans are already fleeing or have fled towards the borders and the former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers is now the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and he joins us now from Geneva. Good morning.

RUUD LUBBERS: Good morning.

DAVID FROST: How bad is the potential situation in Afghanistan, we read that six million people are facing starvation, 25 per cent of the population, is that true?

RUUD LUBBERS: It's true, there are two problems, first of all it's good that we realise ourselves that we have already many millions of Afghan refugees today, one, one and a half in Pakistan, the same numbers in Iran and another one million in the world in all sort of countries. Now we have to face the outflow of substantial big numbers of people who are scared, they have difficulty to flow out because basically the borders are closed, nevertheless substantial numbers can find ways into Pakistan and Iran and both Pakistan and Iran are preparing for temporarily protection and assistance in the border areas and we are working with these governments. Beyond that we have the other problem and that is all those people, the millions in Afghanistan who are very near starvation, this problem was already here but is aggravated substantially by the fact that the humanitarian workers, UN and NGOs had to pull out because of security considerations. So the situation as it is there cannot go on so we need indeed an enormous humanitarian effort and on this very Sunday morning when I listen to all the news of the military action of which I make a plea not to make them disproportional and create additional big misery, it would be very important to realise that at least moderate sums of money are available also for humanitarian assistance. I even venture to say that would have been a good investment in the past to prevent these sort of situations and certainly it's very needed today. It's not only about a war on terrorism, it's also finding solutions for humanitarian assistance and a way out for very poor Afghan people.

DAVID FROST: How would you deliver aid now, as you say the voluntary workers and your workers had to leave because of the dangers, but let's say the world responded with food for Afghanistan, how would that get delivered because then whoever was delivering it would again be discouraged by the dangers?

RUUD LUBBERS: I think there are two dimensions here, first is the food in the border area as well in the camps which are already there, the new ones, but also I think it is inevitable that humanitarian activity is done border areas even on Afghan territory, there's a political aspect there involved but I think when it is needed it has to be done and I would not be against somewhat assertive Pakistan and Iran to do that because they rightly say it's not a good solution to let 100,000 additional new refugees through, to come to into Iran and Pakistan so we'd better give assistance in Afghanistan. The second dimension of course is that from humanitarian perspective it's not only important to avoid disproportional military intervention, so this has to be very focused and precise to minimise human misery, but also important to realise the situation by which we can bring in once again food assistance and that means in fact diminishing the outreach of Taliban to make it impossible for us to do it, and that's really bringing in food there in Afghanistan - too early into the details there because I have to see what the Americans are doing in the military but humanitarian, I stress, is so important I do hope that in all this military plans one takes this as a, as a very important element.

DAVID FROST: A very important element, Mr Lubbers thank you very much for joining us.

RUUD LUBBERS: Thank you.

DAVID FROST: It sounds as though we need a humanitarian coalition as well as a military one.


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