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Tajikistan Will Reject Afghan Refugees - 2001-09-24

Tajikistan says it will not accept refugees from Afghanistan, even if they are fleeing the country to avoid a military attack.

The president of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmanov, made the statement on a visit to his country's border with Afghanistan. He said that Tajikistan is not ready to accept Afghan refugees because its own economy is weak as a result of drought and civil war.

Tajikistan shares a 1,200 kilometer border with Afghanistan and fears that any U.S. military strikes on its southern neighbor could trigger a massive influx of refugees.

Afghanistan is the base for Osama bin Laden, the man U.S. officials say is the chief suspect in the attacks in New York and Washington.

This week, Russia and Tajikistan bolstered the troops they have stationed along the Pyandzh River, which serves as the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. About 12,000 Afghan refugees are in camps on islands in the river. They have not been able to cross into Tajikistan.

Another 25,000 Afghans, many of them ethnic Tajiks, are displaced within Afghanistan. They have moved to the border with Tajikistan, an area under the control of the Northern Alliance, the opposition to the Taleban.

The United Nations refugee agency says these people are the ones most likely to seek to enter Tajikistan in the event of U.S. air-strikes or if the Northern Alliance can no longer offer them protection.