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Sunday, 11 November, 2001, 16:56 GMT
Afghan refugees moved from border
The Killi Faizo border camp is crowded and insecure
The United Nations refugee agency has begun to move thousands of Afghan refugees to the first of 11 new camps set up inside Pakistan.

More than 50 families make up the first group of refugees being transferred to Roghani camp, near the Pakistan town of Quetta.

Afghans in Pakistan
More than 2 million refugees
135,000 since 11 September
1.2m live in UNHCR camps
800, 000 live in Pakistani villages
UNHCR estimates
They had been staying at a transit camp on the border, Killi Faizo, which now holds more than 3,500 Afghan refugees.

The UNHCR said security at Killi Faizo was becoming a major concern.

Taleban personnel had been visiting refugees during the night, harassing them for leaving Afghanistan and telling them they were bad Muslims if they stayed in Pakistan, a UNHCR spokesman said.

Afghan refugees
Most of the refugees are women and children
"They are very, very vulnerable people. These people are on their last legs and have no way to get any further. They are desperate," said spokesman Peter Kessler.

Although the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan remains officially closed, dozens of new families have arrived at Killi Faizo in the last few days.

In search of safety

The UNHCR had been pressing for permission to set up the new camps further from the border, where tens of thousands of refugees can be settled in safety.

But Pakistan has been reluctant to give its approval to the camps because of public opinion, which opposes any further influx of refugees.

They have now reached an agreement to open 11 new sites for three groups of Afghans:

  • The estimated 135,000 Afghans who have entered Pakistan since 11 September using unofficial crossings
  • Vulnerable refugees allowed official entry
  • Tens of thousands of Afghans living in the makeshift Jalozai camp near Peshawar.

Most of the Afghans who have entered in the last month have done so illegally, and are not receiving any humanitarian aid.

.

They are reluctant to go into the new camps. They are suspicious, afraid of being deported back to Afghanistan

UNHCR spokesman
Many have been living a precarious existence in old refugee camps or in Peshawar, Quetta and other cities.

"They are reluctant to go into the new camps. They are suspicious, afraid of being deported back to Afghanistan," said Robert Colville, another UNHCR spokesman.

Pakistan favours Taleban-controlled camps just inside Afghanistan, but aid agencies are concerned that they cannot monitor conditions or human rights in them.

Islamabad has announced plans to shift more than 80,000 Afghans from a makeshift camp near Peshawar to a new camp on the Afghan border.

The residents of Jalozai Camp, 50 kilometres (30 miles) east of Peshawar, have yet to be granted refugee status by Pakistan, depriving them of most international relief.

After continued international pressure, Pakistan has now agreed to give them refugee status, but wants them to live close to the border so that they can be repatriated soon after the conflict is over.

The new camp is being set up at Tootki area of Bajur, 220 kilometres (132 miles) northwest of Peshawar.

See also:

10 Nov 01 | South Asia
Eyewitness: Death in Peshawar
07 Nov 01 | South Asia
Refugees brave another cold night
07 Nov 01 | South Asia
Disaster looms at refugee camps
06 Nov 01 | South Asia
UN hits back over Afghan aid
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