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Monday, 15 October, 2001, 08:58 GMT 09:58 UK
Thousands cross into Pakistan illegally
Afghan refugee boy in Peshawar
Hard times in a Peshawar refugee camp
By the BBC's Daniel Lak in Quetta, Pakistan

As air strikes continue against Afghanistan concern is growing about the ability of people to flee dangerous areas and how their humanitarian needs will be met once they are away from their homes and villages.

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is estimating that tens of thousands of Afghans have come to Pakistan since the 11 September attacks in the United States.

Most of the refugees have arrived in the eight days since air strikes began.

The city of Kandahar - the Taleban stronghold - is said to be mostly empty.

Illegal migrants

The relentless air strikes on Afghanistan, many now in daytime, are putting increasing pressure on people to flee their homes.

Afghan woman carrying UN supplied bread
UN bakeries have been supporting 350,000 Afghans

According to officials of the UNHCR, the concentration of attacks around Kandahar and neighbouring districts in the south of Afghanistan has driven more than 30,000 people into Pakistan in the past month.

Most are illegal migrants because Pakistan is still refusing to allow all but the neediest refugees into its territory.

Rupert Coleville of the UNHCR says an organised smuggling network with contacts on both sides of the border is now charging the equivalent of $100 to get to Quetta from Kandahar.

Mr Colville said Taleban commanders are involved in the smuggling of refugees.

He said the UN is gravely concerned about the growing humanitarian crisis.

Agency anger

The existing drought and food shortages in Afghanistan are compounded by the military situation and then there are the months, if not years, of political uncertainty that lie ahead.

Privately, aid officials are angry that air strikes are continuing without a pause for relief supplies to be sent into Afghanistan.

In this border region alone the UNHCR is expecting up to 100,000 people to gather along the frontier if there is a lull in the air campaign.

Officials admit they are simply not ready to feed, house and provide medical care to such a large number of needy people.

UNHCR's Panos Moumtzis
"The safety of relief workers is a major concern"
Unicef's Executive Director David Bull
saw the refugee camps last week when he joined an aid drop
See also:

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
11 Jan 01 | South Asia
Afghan refugees' unending plight
22 Sep 01 | South Asia
Pakistan's fear of refugee flood
26 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghans place hopes in UN
01 Oct 01 | World
Afghanistan's missing millions
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