The Nation, March 15, 2002

3 Afghan women awaiting repatriation die

From our correspondent

PESHAWAR- As a result of negligence of United Nations High Commission (UNHCR) high-ups, three Afghan women lost their lives in the premises of the Volunteer Repatriation Registration Center (VRRC), Takhta Beg Check Post of Khyber agency.

Two of these women have lost their lives late Wednesday evening while third one was died on Thursday morning.

Taking a prompt notice of the matter, Afghan Refugees commissioner Maj. (Rtd) Mushtaq Aliazai has announced cancellation of weekend and other holidays of the staff, performing duties in the Volunteer Repatriation Registration Center. While the UNHCR high ups are looking for ways and means to establish more registration centers.

In a bid to avail the UNHCR package of repatriation, thousands of Afghans have left their tents and mud houses in camps and rented houses in rural and urban areas and assembled before the registration center at Takhta Beg Check Post near Peshawar. The high ups of UNHCR have already declared three days weekend for its well-paid staff, which resulted sever problems for the Afghan refugees who intend to go back to their homes, since previous Friday, thousands of people included women and children are living under the open sky in front of the registration office.

She war-stricken and helpless Afghan nationals living under the open sky in a bid to get early registration passes, lacking basic amenities of life which resulted in death of three women. Loss of three precious human lives, cause wide range anger and unrest amongst the returning Afghan refugees and on Thursday they staged a demonstration where they chanted slogans against the UNHCR personnel and also against the employees of Afghan Refugees commissionerate.

Maj.(Rtd) Mushtaq Alizai, Commissioner Afghan Refugees rushed to the site where he made an attempt to convince the returning refugees for remaining patient and cordial. He in the light of increasing number of returning refugees has announced cancellation of all weekend holidays of the staffers, responsible for registration and directed them to ensure maximum registration.

He said that UNHCR is determined to provide maximum facilities to the returning refugees but due to heavy rush of these people, the registration staff facing severe difficulties. So far one of the registration office is functioning wile they were finding out ways and means for opening more similar registration offices.

The heavy rush of returning refugees could be judged of the fact when on Thursday; the lone UNHCR registration office at Takhta Beg registered record number of families. The UNHCR personnel informed that they registered 1223 families comprising 6579 individuals, which is a record. While the political authorities guarding the Pak-Afghan border at Torkham informed that beside registered families and individuals, more than 3200 people including women and children have left Pakistan for Afghanistan without availing repatriation package.

The UNHCR office at Peshawar was informed that since starting repatriation of the refugees, 7523 families, comprising 41,579 individuals have been registered who left for Afghanistan. He added that it could be considered a record number of the returning refugees in the recent past. While the political authorities s believe that more than 90,000 people have to return to Afghanistan in the last 14 days. Both the functionaries expecting further increase of the returning refugees in coming days, following NWFP governments reported notice to dwellers of refugee camps at Katcha Garhi and Naser Bagh.

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