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PM seeks action on Afghan refugee problem

1 September 2001 Media Statement

PM seeks action on Afghan refugee problem

Prime Minister Helen Clark today called for a fresh international approach to Afghanistan's refugee problem.

Helen Clark said that at the end of last year some 3.6 million Afghans were living as refugees outside Afghanistan. There are two million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and 1.5 million in Iran.

Helen Clark said that the situation in Afghanistan is dire.

"It is in a state of acute crisis, its infant mortality rate is high, it has suffered drought and its level of human rights abuses is extreme," Helen Clark said.

"The United Nations has been hampered in its efforts to deal with Afghanistan's refugee problem by inadequate international support. Last year the UN sought $200 million for humanitarian funding for Afghanistan but received only half that amount.

"Pakistan and Iran, who bear the bulk of the Afghan refugee problem, are
increasingly unwilling to accept new refugees and are now engaging in a policy of forced repatriation.

"This impasse is forcing refugees to fan out further and further to the point where they reach the shores of Australia, and where New Zealand is required to make a humanitarian response as it has today.

"I am calling today for a fresh international approach to the Afghan refugee problem.

"It would be desirable for the problem to be dealt with on Afghanistan's borders. Unless there is sufficient support for refugees in Iran and Pakistan, the refugee problem will continue to flow to far corners of the earth like Australia, New Zealand and Western Europe."

Helen Clark said she would be asking the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign
Affairs and Trade to raise New Zealand's concerns at the highest level
of the United Nations.

ENDS


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