Afghanistan: UN officials meet with Taliban to voice concern over detained aid workers

Afghanistan: UN officials meet with Taliban to voice concern over detained aid workers

Meeting with high-level Taliban representatives today, senior United Nations officials in the region expressed "serious concern" over the recent arrest of 24 humanitarian aid workers, eight of whom are foreigners.

"We were given to understand that a review of the case against the foreigners and the Afghan nationals arrested is under way and is expected to be completed within a few days," said Eliane Duthoit, the UN Regional Coordinator based in Kabul.

According to the Office of the UN Coordinator for Afghanistan, the UN officials did not meet with the imprisoned aid workers but were given assurances about their well-being.

The Coordinator's Office, which is based in Islamabad, Pakistan, has been in constant touch with officials from embassies of the international staff arrested to provide all necessary support to bilateral initiatives.

In other news, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Pakistan's Commission for Afghan Refugees yesterday began an initial screening programme for Afghans in Jalozai and Nasir Bagh camp in preparation for determining their protection needs.

During this stage of the operation, the Afghans will be asked to provide basic biographical information that will be used during the more in-depth interviews planned to start in about 20 days, UNHCR said. A total of some 100,000 Afghans will be interviewed in the two sites, plus some 50,000 at another in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province.

UNHCR and the Government of Pakistan have agreed on very broad criteria for determining the protection needs of the Afghans. The UN agency has also negotiated that there would be no immediate return for those Afghans not considered as refugees but for whom return would not be viable, including vulnerable persons coming from drought-affected areas or areas economically unsustainable due to the ongoing conflict.

Pakistan has sheltered millions of Afghans for decades, and still has some two million Afghans within its borders.