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Tuesday, 30 October, 2001, 15:00 GMT
UN says 'don't ignore refugees'
Lubbers with refugee children
Ruud Lubbers wants Pakistan to open its borders
Susannah Price

The head of the UN refugee agency, Ruud Lubbers, has called on President Bush and his allies not to allow Afghan civilians to suffer because of the ongoing military operation.

I do hope that those who plan from a big distance far away understand that this is about the Afghan people

UNHCR chief Ruud Lubbers
Mr Lubbers also called for Pakistan to open its border to allow in a limited number of refugees.

Pakistan has said it cannot afford to take any more refugees, and has closed its borders to all but a few women, children and the wounded.

The UNHCR head said the US and its allies should put the plight of refugees higher on their agenda.

Mr Lubbers said the efforts to eradicate international terrorism should not mean endless unspecified air strikes on Afghanistan.

Wants results

Aid agencies have called on Pakistan to open its borders to Afghan refugees fleeing the bombardment.

Afghan refugee child
Large numbers have fled since the bombing
Mr Lubbers said that as he wanted practical results, he was asking the government to accept those Afghans with credible stories of fear.

He said this would mean Pakistan would have to cope with hundreds of thousands of new Afghan refugees rather than millions.

However, the huge number of refugees who have already crossed illegally into Pakistan through mountain passes or by bribing border guards, face the threat of deportation.


Mr Lubbers said the government should give them a second chance and allow them to go to new refugee camps.

In another development, the UN special envoy for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, has said any post-Taleban government should be home-grown and fully owned by the people.

Mr Brahimi, on a separate visit to Pakistan, had an hour-long meeting with President Pervez Musharraf.

They agreed there should be a broad-based multi-ethnic administration in Afghanistan, which would have friendly relations with all its neighbours.

The BBC's Susannah Price in Islamabad
"Pakistan has refused to open its borders to Afghan civilians fleeing the bombardment"
The BBC's Andrew Webb
"Mr Lubbers hasn't reserved his criticism solely for Pakistan"
See also:

28 Oct 01 | South Asia
UN plea on Afghan refugees
22 Oct 01 | Business
Pakistan counts cost of war
22 Oct 01 | South Asia
In pictures: Afghan refugees' plight
21 Oct 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
A refugee's ordeal
21 Oct 01 | South Asia
Chaman's queue of despair
23 Oct 01 | Education
Afghan girls' second chance
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