The United Nations has temporarily suspended a screening operation for Afghan refugees in Pakistan to protest what it calls Islamabad's forced deportation of a number of Afghans this week.
A spokesman for the U-N High Commissioner for Refugees (U-N-H-C-R) in Pakistan says the project was suspended today (Friday) pending an explanation and assurance from Pakistan that no more refugees would be deported.
The U-N-H-C-R spokesman calls Pakistan's action "incomprehensible," and says it was a breach of the screening agreement the refugee agency reached with the Pakistani government earlier this month (August 2nd).
But a spokesman for the Pakistani Foreign Ministry says Pakistan did not violate the agreement because the Afghans were not deported from the Jalozai refugee camp. He said only the new arrivals from Afghanistan were deported.
News reports say 150 Afghan refugees were tricked into boarding government vehicles Tuesday on the pretense that they were being taken to screening centers. Instead they were taken to the Afghan border and handed over to the Taleban, who govern most of Afghanistan.
Under the accord, joint Pakistani-U-N teams have been interviewing 180-thousand recently-arrived Afghans, to determine their refugee status. Most of those Afghans are housed in the makeshift Jalozai camp, near the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar.
Besides the recent arrivals, there are more than two million Afghan refugees already in Pakistan. Pakistani authorities say without increased international support they are unable to accept more refugees.
Afghan nationals are fleeing their country in large numbers because of drought and the continuing war between the ruling Taleban and an alliance of opposition factions based in northern Afghanistan.