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Monday, 17 February, 2003, 16:54 GMT
UN to rehouse Afghan cavemen
The Bamiyan site after the destruction of the statues
Caves dot the Bamiyan landscape near the Buddhas
The United Nations is planning to rehouse Afghan families who recently moved into caves at the site of the giant Buddha statues in Bamiyan destroyed by the Taleban.

When they see that some assistance is given here, they think if I move there, I'll get the same thing

UN spokesman Almeida e Silva
About 100 poor Afghan families occupied the caves after failing to find alternative housing.

UN staff in Afghanistan say they and the authorities are now looking for new accomodation so that the cave dwellers can be moved out.

Last year, more than 100 families were moved out and half of them rehoused in newly-built homes, the UN says.

Bamiyan's famous 1,500-year-old Buddha statues, towering over the town, were dynamited by Afghanistan's Taleban authorities in 2001 - an act which drew global criticism.

Several foreign groups considered rebuilding the statues after the Taleban were ousted by US-led forces in late 2001, but so far, the sites remain empty.

Poverty-driven

A UN spokesman in Kabul said the new group appeared to have occupied the caves in a bid to get new housing from aid agencies.

The site before the destruction of the statues
The giant statues were a global heritage site
"The government wants to find these people proper accommodation - find them alternative accommodation," UN spokesman David Singh said.

Another UN official, Manoel de Almeida e Silva, said the families had moved into the caves because they were poor.

Afghanistan has been devastated by two decades of war.

Many people have been reduced to penury, their property in ruins.

Mr Almeida e Silva said, "Unfortunately it's the kind of problem that we have seen in other situations of poverty.

"When they see that some assistance is given here, they think if I move there, I'll get the same thing, or I'll get something faster."

Ancient Afghan buddhas

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