Pakistan orders border closed to Afghan refugees
By Jack Redden
ISLAMABAD, Nov 10 (Reuters) - Pakistan said on Friday it had closed its borders to refugees fleeing war and economic deprivation in Afghanistan after two decades of providing shelter.
"There has to be an end to the influx of foreigners, Afghan refugees, into Pakistan," Hasan Raza Pasha, secretary of the Interior Ministry, told Reuters. "It has created all sorts of problems, not just economic."
The move, which had been preceded by growing complaints about the burden of sheltering millions of Afghans, comes as the number of refugees has been rising again in recent months because of severe drought and a renewal of the civil war.
"We had discussions with the Afghan government back in May that we would require valid travel documents for all who wish to cross over," Pasha said. "There has to be an end to this open-door situation so we have asked the provincial governments to enforce the decision."
The United Nations, which runs a range of aid programmes for Afghanistan and the refugees from the Pakistani capital, was holding meetings on the situation in Islamabad. News of a closure had first surfaced in one province on Thursday.
"In the last three months the arrivals, who needed assistance, totalled 2,500 families," said Khalid Mansour, spokesman for the U.N.'s World Food Programme.
He said in addition to those families, which number roughly 15,000 people, an unknown number did not need help and were outside the refugee camps.
"We have enough food to feed these 2,500. And we are working on a contingency plan to be able to feed up to 60,000 people just in case. What we would need is a request from the government (of Pakistan) which we have not received," Mansour said.
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