Tirah Valley displacement: UNHCR halts registration, leaves officials in quandary

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013 5:00:03 by


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) postponed the registration of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency at Jalozai camp on Friday, a day after a deadly blast ripped though the facility, killing at least 17 people.

Tirah Valley fell into the hands of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Ansarul Islam on March 19, forcing thousands of tribesmen to flee after two months of fierce fighting between the two groups. The TTP now controls over 90% of the valley, including key routes leading to Orakzai and Kurram agencies.

“After the blast in Jalozai camp, we have suspended the registration of displaced persons and have decided not to start it till a new security plan is chalked out,” the UNHCR spokesperson in Pakistan, Dunya Aslam Khan, told The Express Tribune.

Without the assistance of the UN refugee agency, local authorities are now stumped on how to accommodate the IDPs.

Arshad Khan, director of the Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA), told reporters on Friday that the UNHCR promised on March 18 to offer assistance to the displaced tribesmen from Tirah but reneged on the pledge three days later.

“Thousands of families from the Maidan area [of Tirah] are fleeing to the neighbouring Orakzai and Kurram agencies and the UNHCR is the only agency through which they can be registered for assistance,” Khan explained.

He pointed out that no other relief agency has contacted the FDMA to offer assistance for the IDPs. “The number of displaced families was 4,290 – including 6,436 men, 10,872 women and 15,608 children – who are being assisted by the FDMA with its limited resources,” he said.

A statement issued from the FDMA office stated that the UNHCR unilaterally postponed the registration of IDPs due to which other UN agencies are also unable to provide immediate relief assistance. It also claimed that the UNHCR has given no reason for the postponement.

At least 17 people, including women and children, were killed and 28 others injured in a car explosion at the distribution point in Jalozai camp on Thursday.

“We join the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Pakistan in expressing our deep condolences and sympathy with the families of all those who lost their lives or were injured in the attack,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva, according to a news release issued at UN Headquarters in New York.

“UNHCR is appalled by the bomb attack that took place yesterday in a camp for internally displaced people in northern Pakistan,” he said. He also stated that the UN agency wanted to assess the security situation. “As of today all humanitarian services at Jalozai camp have been suspended while UN agencies assess the security situation.”

Published in The Express Tribune, March 23rd, 2013.

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