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The BBC's Catherine Davis
"Now winter has arrived and conditions are worsening"
 real 28k

Saturday, 6 January, 2001, 16:24 GMT
Tajikistan firm on refugees
Central Asian presidents meet in Almaty
The Almaty summit focused on security in central Asia
The plight of an estimated 10,000 Afghan refugees stranded on the Tajik-Afghan border for months looks set to worsen after Tajikistan said it would not allow any of them to enter its territory.

Speaking after a central Asian summit in the Kazakh city of Almaty, Tajik President Emomali Rahmonov was uncompromising.

"Not a single refugee from Afghan territory will be allowed into Tajik territory," he said.

Tajik President Imomali Rahmonov
President Rahmonov took a hard line
"There are not only refugees there. There are several hundred people armed to the teeth."

Rahmonov said the problem was an international one.

"Why aren't international organisations and the world community concerned about the fate of 4.5 million refugees in other countries of the central Asian region, particularly in Pakistan?", he asked.

Deteriorating

The Tajik news agency Asia-Plus said that, with the recent onset of weather, the refugees' situation had become critical.

"No one has tackled the issue seriously so far. Neither the embassy of the Islamic State of Afghanistan, nor international humanitarian organisations yet know the exact number of the refugees and the sick and wounded.

Pyanj river border
The river Pyanj marks the border
"First reports suggest there are from 10,000 to 15,000 people on islands in the Pyanj river flood plain," the agency said.

Russian military officers who visited the border on 28 December said that deaths from diseases caused by hypothermia and hunger were becoming more frequent in the camps.

Iran's envoy to Tajikistan, Saidrasul Musavi, who visited a camp to deliver humanitarian aid, said the lives of thousands of people were at stake.

Islamist fears

At Friday's meeting, the presidents of four ex-Soviet central Asian republics - Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan - decided on a series of steps to stop what they regard as Afghan-inspired acts of terrorism.

All four leaders fear the spread of fundamentalist Islam in the region and blame the threat on Afghanistan, which borders two of their countries and is close to the others.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev
President Nazarbayev: worried about the Taleban

"The problem of terrorism is the same for us all while Afghanistan is unstable and there isn't a government there which controls the whole country," Kazakhstan's Nursultan Nazarbayev told a news conference.

Tajikistan, the poorest ex-Soviet state which recently suffered a six-year civil war, fears an influx of refugees from the civil war in Afghanistan between the Taleban and opposition Northern Alliance.

General Alexander Markin, head of the Russian border guards in Tajikistan, told a news conference in Dushanbe that drug smuggling across the border rose sharply in 2000. He predicted an escalation of military activity in northern Afghanistan in the vicinity of the Tajik border.

UN concern

The head of the UN office for coordinating humanitarian issues in Tajikistan, Abdul Haq Amiri, said on 3 January that insecurity in the border area had prevented the UN and other humanitarian organisations from providing effective aid.

The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) managed to distribute 18 tonnes of flour, as well as blankets, plastic shields and clothes last month, but the UN has expressed concern about the safety of its staff after Taleban fighters opened fire on the area.

Mr Amiri said UN experts had held talks with officials in a number of districts in southern Tajikistan at which the sites of possible refugee camps were discussed.

However, he said, the permission of the Tajik government was needed before the camps could be set up.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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See also:

08 Dec 00 | Media reports
Afghan refugees stranded in no-man's land
12 Sep 00 | South Asia
Afghan refugees head for Tajikistan
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