Afghan Refugees Move to New Border Camp - A First Step on Their Long Trek Home
|IRC supplies blankets to new arrivals in Shalman Camp, Pakistan. (Photo: Peter Bossian/IRC)|
Some 16,000 Afghans have been transferred from camps and settlements in the Peshawar area to a new camp near the border of Afghanistan - a move felt by many of the refugees as the first step in their migration home.
Shalman Camp, in the Khyber Agency of Northwest Frontier Province, is being managed by the International Rescue Committee. Almost every day, over the past month, buses have been rolling through narrow mountain roads, bringing the refugees to the most secure home they’ve had in years.
The majority of them were living in Jalozai Camp outside Peshawar - a windswept, crowded and unsanitary place, which claimed more lives from disease than aid organizations can calculate. Pakistan closed the camp this week.
Many others now at Shalman are recent arrivals -the so-called "invisibles." These are unregistered refugees, who slipped into Pakistan at unofficial crossings and have been living in fear of detection, often in miserable cramped conditions with relatives in the Peshawar area.
|Shalman Camp, Pakistan. (Photo: Peter Bossian/IRC)|
IRC Field Coordinator Djin Tjik Heng says most of the refugees are relieved to get away from Jalozai and other settlements where they were staying. "They say they are still not confident about conditions in Afghanistan and are reluctant to make the final move across the border," she said. "But Shalman Camp brings them closer to home and they feel it’s a safer place to wait for the right time to return."
The IRC is registering the refugees at Shalman, giving health checks, and supplying tents, mattresses, blankets, cooking equipment and food supplies, as well as a hot meal upon arrival (rice, meat and vegetables).
The program is being funded by UNHCR and the World Food Program. The IRC is working with a local partner organization, HAFO, to manage the camp in coordination with the government Commissioner for Afghan Refugees.