Conflicts & War

UN refugee agency urges Pakistan to open borders for Afghans in distress

Islamabad, Aug 27 (EFE).- The United Nations refugee agency Friday urged Pakistan to open its borders for refugees fleeing Taliban rule in Afghanistan.

“We call upon the government to open its border for vulnerable Afghans whose life is at risk in Afghanistan,” the UNHCR spokesperson Qaiser Khan Afridi told EFE.

Afridi said that the Pakistan government was not allowing Afghans to enter the country without a visa.

Pakistan announced the decision not to let the Afghans in without a visa on Aug.17, two days after thousands of civilians tried to flee Afghanistan after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban.

Pakistan military spokesperson General Babar Iftikhar reiterated its position in a press conference on Friday.

“There are no refugees,” he said in response to a question on the matter.

“We are only allowing people with (travel) documents to pass through,” Iftikhar said.

Pakistan is home to 1.4 million legally registered Afghans, one of the oldest and largest displaced communities that entered Pakistan with the Soviet invasion in 1979.

An estimated one more million Afghans are living in the country illegally.

The UNHCR spokesperson said that if Pakistan decided to open its borders, the world body would help the country in the new challenge.

Afridi said there was no massive influx of Afghan refugees into Pakistan at the moment.

However, Pakistan allowed western countries to use its territory to evacuate their citizens and Afghan nationals who worked for the US and its allies in their 20-year war against the Taliban.

Pakistan has also allowed the evacuation of people who work with global organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The exact number of evacuees through Pakistan is unclear, with conflicting statements from the Pakistani authorities.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry earlier said 22,400 people were evacuated from Afghanistan through Pakistan. These include 22,000 foreigners.

However, Iftikhar said the figure was considerably lower than that.

“I think over 5,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan and about 130 military and civilian planes have so far landed in Islamabad,” the military spokesperson said.

Faced with an expected increase in the arrival of evacuees from Kabul, the government has asked hotels to stop reserving rooms and hold them for arrivals from the neighboring country for the next 21 days.

The government is also issuing transit visas for western and Afghan evacuees. EFE


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