Pakistan prepared to shelter inflow of Afghans, UNHCR says

Pakistan prepared to shelter inflow of Afghans, UNHCR says

The authorities in Pakistan have announced that its borders will remain closed to Afghans without proper travel documents, but those who manage to cross illegally will be assisted in camps, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

In a humanitarian update issued today in Geneva, the agency noted with appreciation Islamabad's readiness to shelter large numbers of Afghans should they be forced to temporarily flee their country. Pakistan is also considering allowing Afghan women, children and elderly stranded at the Charman border to cross for humanitarian reasons. Some 10,000 to 20,000 Afghan refugees were estimated to be waiting in the area, about half of them without any shelter.

"While understanding the extremely tense and complex situation facing the governments bordering on Afghanistan, including significant national security concerns, UNHCR is nevertheless concerned that Afghan civilians are already suffering from border closure policies across the region," the agency said. "Many Afghans are now stalled at frontiers inside their country, where the humanitarian situation as well as general security is deteriorating by the day."

UNHCR reiterated its firm commitment "to assist the Government of Pakistan as well as Afghanistan's other neighbours in caring for any new Afghan arrivals." It also asked the international community "to help shoulder the burden posed by any new influx."