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Thursday, 27 September, 2001, 02:50 GMT 03:50 UK
Pakistan refuses to open borders
Refugees at Chaman
Afghan refugees mass at the Pakistani border
Pakistan has said it will not open its border with Afghanistan to new refugees despite a plea by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

America has no reason, justification or evidence for attacking

Mullah Mohammad Omar
Only those Afghans with valid documents will be allowed into the country, officials said, citing security concerns.

In Kabul, the Taleban's supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar urged Afghans who had fled their homes to go back and said the possibility of a US attack had decreased.

"Therefore, all those [Afghans] who have been displaced internally or externally are instructed to return to their original place of residence," he said.

Pakistan's refugee minister Abbas Sarfraz Khan said the authorities would consider reopening the border if there was a humanitarian crisis.

Smuggled weapons seized at the border
Smuggled weapons seized at the border
The BBC's Susannah Price, in Islamabad, said Mr Khan did not go into details but said a US attack might trigger a huge wave of refugees.

The minister said Pakistan - which already has two million Afghan refugees - was in no condition to take more.

The United Nations is drawing up emergency plans to cope with up to a million Afghan refugees flooding into Pakistan in the event of an attack by the US-led coalition.

Aid agencies say that up to 20,000 refugees are massed on the Afghan-Pakistan border.

But the governor of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province says saboteurs might enter Pakistan posing as refugees, and launch attacks.

The governor said camps would be set up for any refugees who did manage to slip across the borders.

New camps

Officials from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Pakistan are surveying 75 possible refugee camp sites in the North West Frontier province and the tribal areas near the Afghan border.

Refugee with children in wheelbarrow
Refugees will use any transport - even a wheelbarrow
And the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has announced plans to resume deliveries of food aid into Afghanistan from Turkmenistan and Tajikistan.

The Americans are demanding that Osama Bin Laden - chief suspect behind the attacks in New York and Washington - be handed over unconditionally, but the ruling Taleban have refused.

Click here for map of Afghanistan

Refugees in Pakistan report chaos in Kabul as people rush to escape the expected attacks.

Thousands are also fleeing other areas they believe might be a US target, such as the Taleban stronghold of Kandahar in the south.

UN agencies are having difficulty finding out what is happening in Afghanistan because their international staff have left the country and the Taleban have banned the use of radios by the agencies' local staff.

Border stays closed

There are an estimated 3.5 million Afghan refugees already living in Iran and Pakistan and at least a million more displaced inside Afghanistan.

Conditions at the camps are poor
Conditions at the camps are poor

Under the worst conditions, the number of people inside Afghanistan requiring UN aid could rise to 7.5 million, according to Ross Mountain, the UN head of humanitarian coordination.

The UNHCR hopes to have the first new refugee camp up and running within 10 days.

The United Nations is planning an international appeal to raise funds for the refugees and officials say it will be one of the largest appeals in the organisation's history.

Kofi Annan said the international community should send "swift and generous help" to ensure that the thousands of Afghan refugees do not overburden neighbouring states.

Food shipments

In an effort to prevent starvation among refugees, the WFP has agreed to resume food shipments to northern and western Afghanistan on a trial basis, for the first time since the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington.

Deteriorating security conditions and lack of commercial transport prompted the WFP - the main food aid agency in the country - to suspend food shipments to Afghanistan on 12 September.

But it says, despite this, shipments will now resume to those areas where security is relatively stable, local transport is available and aid workers are present on the ground to oversee distribution.

The WFP estimates that about 1.6 million Afghans will run out of food if they do not receive additional supplies.


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The BBC's Emil Petrie
"Food supplies are limited and winter is just around the corner"
Rupert Colville, UN Refugee Agency
"At least the most vulnerable should be let through"
See also:

11 Jan 01 | South Asia
Afghan refugees' unending plight
22 Sep 01 | South Asia
Pakistan's fear of refugee flood
24 Sep 01 | South Asia
Taleban retreat in heavy fighting
25 Sep 01 | South Asia
Pakistan warns of Afghan instability
25 Sep 01 | South Asia
The wild border town of Quetta
26 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghans place hopes in UN
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