UN refugee chief concerned at plight of displaced in north-west Pakistan
6 May 2009 – The United Nations refugee chief today voiced his deep concern at the plight of tens of thousands of civilians uprooted by the ongoing conflict in north-western Pakistan, as his agency steps up its humanitarian assistance to the region.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), armed clashes between the Pakistani army and militants in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the Swat district of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) have sent thousands fleeing, including a large number of Afghan refugees in these areas.
“As part of the UN response, UNHCR is already sending humanitarian aid items to new camps that we are helping to set up in the Mardan and Swabi districts,” High Commissioner António Guterres said in Geneva.
The agency is also assisting authorities to establish two new reception centres and two more are planned for newly displaced people on the main routes adjacent to the conflict zone.
Mr. Guterres expressed deep concern over the well-being of some 20,000 registered Afghan refugees who have been affected by the conflict in the Buner, Lower Dir and Upper Dir regions.
“We have reports that many have fled together with the local population. Some have chosen to return to Afghanistan with UNHCR assistance and others have chosen to relocate to existing refugee sites in Pakistan,” he said.
The number of people so far displaced by the recent escalation of fighting between Government forces and militants is not yet clear.
Over the past four days, UNHCR has helped authorities register nearly 45,000 people and to establish 12 registration points for people fleeing the area.
Mr. Guterres once again appealed to all parties to respect humanitarian principles and to ensure the protection and freedom of movement of civilians caught up in the conflict, as well as the safe passage of relief goods and humanitarian workers.
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