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UNHCR continues gearing up for possible refugee influx from Afghanistan

UNHCR continues gearing up for possible refugee influx from Afghanistan

Relief workers unload food aid
A second emergency airlift carrying nearly 45 metric tonnes of blankets and plastic sheeting arrived today in Pakistan as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) continued preparations for a possible new influx from Afghanistan.

The Il-76 cargo plane, carrying 17,000 blankets and 250 rolls of plastic sheeting, arrived in Peshawar on a flight from Copenhagen, according to UNHCR spokesman Yusuf Hassan. More UNHCR emergency staff have also arrived in Pakistan and are being deployed in Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta to support the new emergency operation.

In another move, UNHCR today sent the first team of specialists to the Khyber agency in northwest Pakistan to begin work on a new camp that will be used to accommodate Afghan refugees in the event of a new wave of border crossings. Provincial authorities have given security clearance for the eight-person team, which includes site planners and water and sanitation engineers. The first site to be developed could receive up to 10,000 refugees.

Last week, four teams comprised of personnel from the UN, Pakistani Government and non-governmental organizations visited six tribal areas to inspect 75 potential sites along the border with Afghanistan. The teams found only 23 sites that were suitable for use. Four of the sites, which meet UNHCR's primary requirements, will be established simultaneously in the Khyber agency, Kurram, North Waziristan and Bajaur, all tribal areas along the Afghanistan border. UNHCR is continuing discussions with the authorities in identifying more sites.