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Friday, 12 October, 2001, 02:51 GMT 03:51 UK
Refugee agency 'failing Afghans'
Shahi Arbabi temporary refugee camp in south-eastern Iran
More refugee camp sites need to be found
By Emma Jane Kirby in Geneva

The United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, says it is failing in its struggle to assist Afghan refugees who may try to flee to Iran and Pakistan.

The refugee agency, which has predicted some 1.5 million refugees will try to cross the border, says its operations are being frustrated by red tape and a lack of international support.

We are losing this race

High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers
Over the past week, then agency has expressed increasing frustration with its emergency programmes.

In Pakistan, red tape and security threats are preventing the UNHCR from gaining access to border areas to monitor population movement and record any new influx of refugees.

The Pakistan Government has also insisted that any new refugee camps must be built along the Afghan border - locations which UNHCR claim are dry, remote and in insecure tribal areas.

Sites withdrawn

Of the 11 sites identified as camp bases in the North West Frontier Province, six have now been withdrawn by the local authorities without explanation, forcing the UNHCR to retrace its steps and begin the search for other possible refugee sites all over again.

In Quetta, where the UNHCR office was attacked on Monday, some UNHCR staff have been restricted from visiting field locations because of fears for safety.

The organisation is also urging donor governments to provide more money before it is too late.

So far, the organisation has received only $23m of the $29m pledged.

In a statement, the High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, warned the international community that the UNHCR was in a real race against time.

"Right now we are losing this race," he said.

See also:

11 Oct 01 | South Asia
Afghans threatened with deportation
01 Oct 01 | South Asia
How Afghans became aid dependent
30 Sep 01 | South Asia
In pictures: Afghanistan's refugees
27 Sep 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Afghanistan's future
19 Sep 01 | South Asia
On edge: Afghanistan's neighbours
27 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Blair calls for aid alliance
27 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghans brace for US strike
25 Sep 01 | South Asia
Pakistan warns of Afghan instability
25 Sep 01 | South Asia
The wild border town of Quetta
29 Sep 01 | Americas
UN backs anti-terrorism moves
01 Oct 01 | World
Afghanistan's missing millions
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