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Chinoy: Rocky wasteland awaits Afghan refugees

CNN Correspondent Mike Chinoy reports from Pakistan about the harsh circumstances ahead for people fleeing Afghanistan.  

(CNN) -- People fleeing Afghanistan in fear of a possible military strike are adding to a deepening refugee crisis in neighboring nations, particularly Pakistan. Iran and Pakistan are each already home to at least 2 million Afghan refugees, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, and the U.N. relief agency has warned of a "worst case scenario" in which up to an additional 1.5 million Afghans may flee to neighboring countries.

CNN Senior Asia Correspondent Mike Chinoy is in Pakistan, and filed this report:

"One Pakistani aid official told me that this area was as close to ideal as it was possible to find as a place to house refugees given the current circumstances. But if you look around here, this place looks like it's anything but ideal, a desolate wasteland of rocky terrain, with virtually no vegetation, no rivers or streams, surrounded by rugged hills and mountains as far as the eye can see.

"It's an isolated area. There is only one road into it, a tortuous, narrow road that winds up from the Khyber Pass. It's just a few kilometers from the border with Afghanistan, though. And aide officials say that given the circumstances, this is all they have to work with, and so plans are under way to turn this area into a camp that will house between 10,000 and 15, 000 refugees.

"In the next few days, earth movers will come in here and begin to level this land. Tents and food and medical supplies will be trucked in, and it's expected within a matter of weeks, large numbers of Afghans will begin to come here. This is only one of what are expected to be up to 100 refugee camps just in this one province of Pakistan, the North-West Frontier Province. As many as 1.5 million Afghans are expected to cross over this wild border should the situation inside of Afghanistan deteriorate.

"The aid agencies wanted these new camps located much closer to populated areas, because there is more infrastructure there. The Pakistani authorities, however, do not want any more refugees near populated areas, and they have insisted that any new camps be built as close to the border as possible. The result is places like this, desolate wasteland now, within a short time, likely to be a home for thousands of people."


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