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Officials See No Refugee Crisis Along Afghan-Pakistan Border

Afghan government and United Nations humanitarian officials say the flow of refugees, who have been streaming back into the country recently, is so far manageable and not expected to cause a crisis. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kabul.

No significant migration from Pakistan to Afghanistan is being seen despite leaflets distributed in the Bajur border area ordering remaining Afghan refugees to leave.

It was initially feared that tens of thousands of people might descend on the border but officials say most appear to have dispersed into other parts of Pakistan.

Officials here say they are closely monitoring the situation but relatively few are confirmed to have crossed the border in recent days.

Abdul Qadir Ahadi, Afghanistan's deputy minister for refugees, says Afghanistan was caught by surprise and if the number of refugees had been 70,000 as the Pakistanis claimed it would have been cause for concern.

He adds that Pakistan has the right to ask foreigners inside its borders to leave and likely is worried about the security situation there.

Pakistan has launched a major military campaign against insurgents who have long used the remote tribal region to carry out attacks on both sides of the border. The Afghans are accused by the Pakistanis of having ties to the primarily Pashtun militants.

In recent months, aid agencies say 20,000 people, both Afghans and Pakistanis, have voluntarily fled Pakistan.

More than 4,000 families flowed into Konar province. Most are reported to be staying with Afghan relatives and friends.

Nadir Farhad, the spokesman in Kabul for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, says although his agency does not have direct access to the province because of poor security, it is providing assistance and the situation appears manageable.

"The number may increase if the security situation deteriorates. But UNHCR hopes that the displacement won't last long and people are able to go back to their home area," he said.

Two decades of war prompted Afghans to take refuge in Pakistan. Since the U.S.-led coalition force toppled the Taliban government in 2001 an estimated five million Afghans have returned home.

In this year alone, according to UNHCR, about 250,000 have left Pakistan for Afghanistan. The humanitarian agency says many of the returnees say they fled Pakistan because food and fuel have become unaffordable. Others say they left because of the worsening security situation.