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Pakistan Halts Afghan Refugee Deportations - 2001-09-01


U-N officials in Pakistan say they will resume the screening of Afghan refugees on Monday following agreement by Pakistan to halt deportation of refugees.

The screening to verify the status of the refugees was halted after Pakistan sent some 150 Afghan refugees back to their war-torn country earlier this week.

News reports say 150 Afghan refugees were tricked into boarding government vehicles Tuesday, believing 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.

Islamabad says those expelled were illegal migrants who entered after Pakistan closed its border with Afghanistan earlier this year. Pakistan says most Afghan asylum-seekers cross the border for economic reasons, not for fear of persecution.

But the U-N High Commissioner for Refugees says Pakistan's action breached an agreement to jointly screen migrants to determine their refugee status.

A spokesman for the U-N High Commissioner for Refugees (Yusuf Hassan) said Pakistani authorities have given assurance that there will be no deportation of refugees during the screening process.

The U-N-H-C-R spokesman said the earlier decision to deport the asylum seekers was made by authorities in Pakistan's Northwestern Frontier Province, and not by the federal government.

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