Saturday, November 27

“Unprecedented” numbers crossing from Afghanistan to Pakistan | Afghanistan

An “unprecedented” number of people are traveling from Afghanistan to Pakistan through the official border crossing, according to local officials, as the carnage in Kabul following the suicide bombing at the airport has led more to try to flee the country.

While Pakistan has said it will not accept Afghan refugees, the Spin Boldak-Chaman overland border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan has remained open, and in recent days hundreds of thousands of Afghans have crossed it.

Only people who travel to Pakistan for medical treatment or have proof of residence in the country can cross, but human smugglers have been helping families cross the border.

On Friday, after the suicide bombing at the Kabul airport that killed more than 100 Afghan civilians and 13 American soldiers, the number of people crowding the border increased further.

A local health official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said: “There has been an unprecedented increase in the number of Afghans and refugees entering Pakistan from various provinces of Afghanistan in the last two days. Today, even more people crossed Chaman than yesterday. “

Another person at the scene said numbers at the border nearly doubled on Friday. Every day, tens of thousands of people have gathered at the border and around 20,000 have been crossing every day, almost triple the usual 6,000. Among those who fled were the Pashtuns, Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group, as well as Tajiks and minorities such as the Hazara Shiites.

Pakistan already hosts the majority of the 2.2 million Afghans registered abroad. The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, is preparing for half a million people or more to flee Afghanistan in the “worst case” in the coming months, and Pakistan is likely to be the place where the most I would run away

Some 515,000 refugees have already fled recently and UNHCR said the situation in Afghanistan “remains uncertain and may evolve rapidly.”

While the Pakistani health official referred to many who crossed as refugees, an acknowledgment that they were fleeing to Pakistan, the government has officially denied that there has been a mass exodus of Afghans entering the country illegally through the border crossing.

“We do not allow Afghan refugees to enter and cross our border. There may have been some individual cases, but there is no influx, “said Liaquat Shahwani, spokesman for the Balochistan state government.

Shahwani said those who crossed over would be confined to refugee camps that are being built in border areas, and called on UNHCR and other international agencies to help build and manage them.

Balochistan, the region where the border city of Chaman is located, is already one of Pakistan’s most turbulent and war-torn regions, and is subject to frequent attacks by Baloch insurgent groups and Islamic militants, including the Islamic State. .

Following the attack on the Kabul airport on Thursday, where ISIS militants detonated a suicide bomb in the crowd, Shahwani said security in the Chaman border area was being stepped up.

“There is no official warning of any terrorist attack in the border areas, but the security forces at the border are on alert and are monitoring the border,” Shahwani said. “They are well prepared to face any situation. In the last days and weeks, there have been some terrorist attacks, but the circumstances are under our control in Baluchistan ”.

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