The Government of Pakistan in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) announced on Thursday an immediate ban on the entry of new Afghan refugees into the province. The UNHCR spokesman in Peshawar, Roy Herrmann, told IRIN on Friday: “We are surprised by this news, and the UNHCR is currently meeting with Pakistani authorities at various levels in an effort to reverse the decision.”
News sources reported that the Pakistani government had become alarmed at the recent influx of refugees into Pakistan fleeing heavy fighting in northern Afghanistan and was disappointed by the lack of assistance Pakistan had received from the international community. In addition, there was speculation in the government that not all those entering the country were doing so because of fighting and existing drought conditions, but rather for economic reasons. UNHCR estimates there are 1.2 million Afghans living in Pakistan today, but the Government of Pakistan puts the figure at almost 2 million. The presence of Afghans is most visible in the NWFP capital Peshawar, where at least 700,000 people in a population of approximately 2.2 million are Afghan.
The government has suggested that centres for internally displaced persons (IDPs) be set up in Afghanistan to stem the flow coming into Pakistan, but Herrmann said such a move was impractical as “most of the people fleeing now are ethnic minorities who would have a difficult time under such conditions”. UNHCR has appealed for further funds to assist recent arrivals, but officials say there has been little international response.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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