Afghan refugees asked to leave camp in Pakistan   2010-09-19 23:36:06 FeedbackPrintRSS

ISLAMABAD, Sept.19 (Xinhua) -- Authorities in Pakistan have asked Afghan refugees to leave in two weeks a camp they had lived in for nearly 30 years and devastated by the recent floods, refugees at the camp said on Sunday.

The government has already stopped thousands of Afghan refugees from rebuilding their houses in Azakhel refugee camp, some 40 kilometers from Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in northwest Pakistan.

The refugees wanted to rebuild their houses in the camp but Pakistani officials say that owners of the land had requested the government to return their land to them.

Negotiations between the Afghan elders of the camp, the owners and the authorities have failed to reach an agreement over the issue and the government has now set a two-week deadline for the refugees to leave the camp.

The Pakistani authorities have offered alternate place to the affected refugees to shift there but the refugees said they had to recover their belongings buried under the rubble of the devastated houses.

"The local Pakistani authorities have given us a 15-day ultimatum to leave the camp," said Chaman Gul, a refugee in the camp, adding that the affected refugees can not recover their items out of the debris in such a short period.

He said the camp elders have sought six months from the Pakistani authorities to stay at the current site of the camp.

Ali Anan Qamar, District Coordination Officer in Nowshera, said that he stopped the Afghan refugees from reconstruction of their destroyed mud houses after receiving applications from land owners requesting the district administration to refrain refugees from rebuilding their houses.

Niaz Wali, another refugee at the camp, said that UNHCR, Afghan diplomats and the Pakistani authorities had earlier assured the refugees that they would not be forced to leave the camp.

"But the two-week deadline has now been given to us," Wali said.

Afghan Charge d'affaires in Islamabad Majnoon Gulab said Pakistani authorities had assured the Afghan diplomats that no refugee will be forcibly expelled from the camp and that they would be given a choice to shift to other place.

Pakistani land owners of the refugee camp had stopped the Afghan refugees from reconstruction of their destroyed houses in the camp.

Azakhel camp is one of the oldest camps for Afghan refugees, who first fled their homeland after Soviet troops' invasion some 30 years ago. The floods have completely destroyed the camp.

Editor: yan
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