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December 2001, Volume 8, Number 12

Afghan Refugees

There was no flood of Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran in October-November 2001, but travel agents, especially in Pakistan, did a brisk business arranging for Afghans to be smuggled to Europe and elsewhere. Even when they are caught in countries abroad, Afghanis are not being deported.

Pakistan and the UNHCR quarreled about where to build additional refugee camps. Some reports suggested that the poor conditions of camps in Pakistan encouraged some refugees to return to Afghanistan. The Iranian government, which has 1.5 to 2 million Afghans inside the country, including one million who are employed, built two refugee camps across the line in Afghanistan in order to provide shelter but not allow more Afghanis into Iran.

In December 2001, there were protests from UNHCR that Iran was forcing Afghanis to return: "They have been pushed into Afghanistan by the Iranian authorities. This is a great concern to us because it is a major violation of the Geneva Convention." The UNHCR statement continued: Afghanis "are randomly rounded up in neighborhoods in the capital city or villages and towns around the border area, then taken to a detention center and put back on trucks without any recourse."

There are 80,000 Afghans in Germany, including 20,000 in Hamburg. The Czech government accused an Afghani diplomat of smuggling foreigners to Germany and elsewhere; Germany gave the diplomat asylum.

There are 80,000 Afghanis in the UAE, and thousands more who hold Pakistani passports. Afghans whose passports expire are being allowed to remain until consular services are once again available. The UAE severed diplomatic ties with Afghanistan on September 23 2001 and told the Taliban diplomats to leave the country.

Bangladesh. A new division in the Ministry of Labor and Employment will promote the welfare of Bangladeshi migrants.

Peter Baker and Alan Sipress, "Concern Grows Over Refugees," Washington Post, December 1, 2001. Nissar Hoath, "Immigration rules eased for Afghans," Gulf News, November 25, 2001.