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Caritas Pakistan on alert for Afghan refugees

Catholic agency is ready to provide humanitarian assistance for Afghans fleeing the Taliban

Caritas Pakistan on alert for Afghan refugees

Afghan refugees cross the border into Pakistan at the crossing in Chaman on Aug. 18. (Photo: AFP)

Published: August 19, 2021 09:37 AM GMT

Updated: August 19, 2021 11:35 AM GMT

Caritas Pakistan has alerted its diocesan units bordering neighboring Afghanistan to help refugees fleeing the Taliban’s takeover of the country.

Thousands of Afghans have entered Pakistan via the Chaman border crossing, one of the most active trade and travel routes between the countries, according to media reports.

However, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid on Aug. 18 claimed that there were no refugees entering the country, nor has Pakistan made preparation for Afghans seeking refuge.

Amjad Gulzar, executive director of Caritas Pakistan, said more than 200 families have already arrived in urban areas of Quetta in Balochistan province.

“Caritas Pakistan Quetta and Caritas Pakistan Islamabad-Rawalpindi have positioned themselves so that we can respond to the emerging humanitarian crisis,” he told UCA News.

“Pashto-speaking staff may be engaged in both field offices. Refugee crises are often protracted and require strategies that reflect both short-term needs — water, first aid, immunization — and mid-to-long term challenges such as mental health, trauma, chronic diseases and education. Staff have been alerted to avoid any controversial social media posts about the Taliban.”

Pakistan has a moral obligation to open its borders to our neighbors in need and to ensure the rights of refugees

Caritas Pakistan has had a meeting with the Afghan Refugees Commissioner Office in Peshawar, capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, to pledge its cooperation.

In a statement issued on Aug. 17, Aurat (women) March urged Pakistan to open its borders.

“Pakistan has a moral obligation to open its borders to our neighbors in need and to ensure the rights of refugees as per its international law obligations. We must agitate to reform our policies towards existing and new refugees,” it stated.

Pakistan is not a party to the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, nor the 1967 Protocol. However, Caritas Pakistan worked with Afghan refugees in the 70s, 90s and in 2001 following the US invasion.

According to the UNHCR, 1.4 million Afghan refugees still live in Pakistan, with over 300,000 in the southern sea port of Karachi. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in the north has 43 refugee camps for Afghans.

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