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Saturday, 1 September, 2001, 20:30 GMT 21:30 UK
Pakistan halts deportations
Jalozai camp
Tents are made of plastic waste and old clothes
By Susannah Price in Islamabad

The UN is to resume the screening of Afghan refugees living in camps in Pakistan after the government there gave assurances that no more refugees would be deported before their cases were examined.

The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNCHR) received the assurances at talks on Saturday with Pakistani government officials.

It had halted screening on Friday after establishing that 28 families from the makeshift Jalozai camp near Peshawar had been deported to Afghanistan.

An elderly Afghan refugee with her granddaughter in Jalozai
Pakistan regards most Afghan refugees as 'economic migrants'

According to the UNCHR the Pakistani government, which had originally denied any removals had taken place, expressed concern at the deportation.

It appears that the local authorities in Northwest Frontier Province had carried out the expulsions, taking the refugees back to Afghanistan in a lorry on Tuesday.

The 28 families had only recently arrived at the Jalozai camp from a conflict zone in northern Afghanistan.

Chance of aid

The UNCHR now says that screening will resume on Monday.

More than 14,000 families have registered and will be questioned to determine whether they face persecution, fighting or drought if they return to Afghanistan.

Those seen as genuine cases will be allowed to stay and given assistance.

Those who the screening teams decide can return safely, or who come from areas unaffected by conflict or drought, will be deported.

The authorities in Northwest Frontier Province have made it clear that they see the huge number of Afghan refugees in their area as a drain on their resources.

The UN hopes the deportations will not deter the refugees from taking part in the screening, which holds out some hope of temporary shelter and aid here in Pakistan.

See also:

26 Jul 01 | South Asia
UN to tighten Afghan sanctions
24 May 01 | South Asia
UN steps up pressure on Taleban
20 Dec 00 | South Asia
Analysis: Who are the Taleban?
11 Jun 01 | South Asia
Timeline: Afghanistan
31 Aug 01 | South Asia
UN suspends Afghan refugee screening
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