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Pakistan: UNHCR regrets deaths of Afghan refugees

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This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis - to whom quoted text may be attributed - at the press briefing, on 18 May 2007, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR regrets the violent incidents and the loss of life in Jungle Pir Alizai refugee camp in Pakistan's Balochistan province on Wednesday which reportedly led to the deaths of three Afghan refugees. We appeal to all parties for a peaceful and negotiated resolution of disagreements ahead of the scheduled closure of the camp next month.

The problems appear to have begun when the local authorities started to bulldoze some walls of an uninhabited compound in the camp as a first step towards closing it. The camp residents started stoning them in protest and tear gas was fired. The authorities then withdrew from the scene. The precise circumstances of the shooting which reportedly led to the three deaths are not yet known.

Jungle Pir Alizai is one of four camps scheduled for closure in 2007. The others are Girdi Jungle (also in Balochistan province), Jalozai and Kacha Gari, both in North West Frontier Province. The camps have a combined population of 220,000 persons. The closure of the camps was agreed at the twelfth Tripartite Commission meeting between the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and UNHCR.

The inhabitants of the camps have been well informed about the impending closure of the camps and their options for either voluntary repatriation to Afghanistan or relocating within Pakistan. UNHCR continues to appeal to the camp residents to respect the government's decision to close the camps. We also call upon the Pakistani authorities to exercise restraint during this delicate exercise.