UNHCR Braces for 300,000 Afghan Refugees on Iranian Border
The UN refugee agency said Friday it was bracing for the arrival of 300,000 Afghan refugees at the Iranian border in the case of a US military strike against Afghanistan.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is drawing up plans for the arrival of 300,000 refugees, said Bo Schack, the temporary UNHCR mission chief in Iran.
So far, "there are no reports of arrivals in Iran, but some people have certainly crossed the border" in little-patroled areas in southeast Iran, he added.
Schack said no figures were available about such possible crossings along the 900-kilometer (550-mile) border between Afghanistan and Iran.
Citing Afghan opposition sources, the Iranian news agency IRNA said late Thursday that 2,500 Afghans were stranded at the border and that 500 other Shiite Muslim Afghans who originally headed toward Pakistan, were now fleeing in the opposite direction to reach Iran.
Iran has already accommodated more than two million Afghan refugees and closed its border to new any arrivals on Saturday. If refugees need any assistance, it is being provided on Afghan border territory.
Since the start of the year, more than 200,000 Afghans have also entered Iran illegally fleeing drought, hunger or civil war in their country.
The Iranian government has set up seven refugee camps -- five on the border of the northeastern province of Khorasan and two on the border of southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan.
The UN refugee agency said donor countries had pledged to assist the refugees.
The UNHCR is also in talks with Iranian authorities to make sure that refugees will not be left stranded in a kind of no-man's land between the two countries.
Separately, sources in the aid community in Islamabad said Friday that Pakistan has begun planning for an influx of more than one million refugees from Afghanistan as terrified citizens flee in fear of a US attack -- TEHRAN (AFP)
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