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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Refugee Camps Being Built in Pakistan

Aired October 4, 2001 - 06:23   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, time now to get another unique look at life or at least a facet of life there in that region. Let's go to Pakistan now. Our Mike Chinoy has with him -- he's on our videophone -- and he has it in what is going to become a refugee camp very soon. And he's going to show us exactly what is involved in picking a site and we'll get an idea of what life is like there.

Hello, Mike.

MIKE CHINOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Leon.

Well, one Pakistani aid official described the place where I'm standing as an ideal location, given the circumstances, to house Afghan refugees. But if you look around this area called Shoman (ph), which is about 25 kilometers north of the famous Khyber Pass, it looks anything but ideal. It is a desolate moonscape of rugged hills and mountains and scrubland. There are maybe a half dozen trees in the immediate vicinity, no visible streams. It's very, very hard to imagine how anybody could actually live here, but this is in fact the site that's been designated for the first of what is expected to be eventually maybe up to a hundred new camps to house Afghan refugees.

This site will accommodate between 10,000 and 15,000. Work is beginning in the next few days to try and level this land here and to begin to truck in the tents, medical supplies, food and water. They're going to have to drill 600 meters beneath this rocky surface to find water, according to one engineer. At the moment, the only access road in is one very narrow torturous road, which we drove on through the mountains to get here, and yet the expectation is in a matter of weeks as conditions continue to deteriorate inside Afghanistan, which is just a few kilometers from where I'm standing, that there will be thousands of people trying to survive here -- Leon.

HARRIS: Well, Mike, how soon will they begin the process of preparing that patch of land there?

CHINOY: Well, they had engineers out looking at it today, and they're expecting within a few days to bring in earth moving equipment and to begin truck shipments of key supplies.

One of the interesting problems here is that the aid agencies wanted to house new refugees much closer in to populated areas, particularly around the city of Peshawar. There are some camps there that are not full because they were inhabited by Afghans who in the mid and late '90s left Afghanistan -- left Pakistan and returned to Afghanistan. They have some infrastructure that exists already. The government of Pakistan, however, doesn't want any new refugees near its populated areas.

The government, at the moment, continues to keep its border officially sealed, although, as you can see from the terrain around me, it would not be that hard if you had the stamina to climb over these hills and make it across a border which is largely unmarked and very, very wild. But the government doesn't want any Afghan refugees in any of the main populated areas and, therefore, has insisted that all new camps be within a few kilometers of the border. That's presented great problems for the international aid agencies. This is terribly difficult, wild, rugged terrain.

This particular area is in a so-called tribal area which is considered so lawless that off camera I've got a half dozen armed guards that the government insisted come with us for our own safety. But that's what the aid agencies have been given by the Pakistani authorities and they're going to just have to make do with these very, very rough conditions. For the Afghans, it's going to be tough. But as one aid worker told me, at least here they'll have some degree of security which they don't have in their own country -- Leon.

HARRIS: Mike, you paint an awfully dire, bleak picture there. Let me ask you this, I mean you began your report by saying that the officials there believe that that location is a perfect location. Despite everything you've just mentioned, how can this be a perfect location? What's the reasoning behind that?

CHINOY: Well the reason, Leon, is there is a road, at least, which cannot be said for some of these other areas, so truck convoys can get through with difficulty. And of course it will get more difficult later on in the fall when the winter snows block the passes, but at least there is some transport. They think that if they drill down far enough there is some water and at least it's flat. And so if they level it out and they bring in some tents and they truck in some supplies, they will at least be able to accommodate people in this dire emergency situation.

What it's going to be like in the middle of winter when it's bitterly cold, and it's already very windy here now, you can imagine what it will be like in December or January or February. I can imagine it would be very, very grim. But with an estimated 1 to 1.5 million Afghans expected to pour across the border if conditions deteriorate, this is about as good as they have. And the aid agencies have been flying in emergency supplies to Peshawar, making all kind of contingency plans to do the best job they can under very, very tough circumstance -- Leon.

HARRIS: Amazing. And, Mike, I've got to tell you that for some of us that's awfully hard to imagine.

Mike Chinoy reporting live this morning from a future refugee camp site there in Pakistan.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Boy, that is remarkable -- a lot of work. HARRIS: Yes.

LIN: And those people are already on their way, about a week, a week and a half out.

HARRIS: It gives you an amazing view of what these people are having to endure -- what they're willing to endure...

LIN: Yes.

HARRIS: ... to stay there and live at least near their own homeland.

LIN: All right. Well anyway, we appreciate all those efforts by Mike to bring us that story.

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