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Tajik Interior Minister Says His Country Unable To Host Many Afghan Refugees

Afghan government soldiers sit by a bridge on the Tajik side of the border with Afghanistan on June 22.

Tajik Interior Minister Ramazon Rahimzoda says his country is unable to host many refugees from neighboring Afghanistan, as thousands look to flee after Taliban militants took control of the country.

Rahimzoda cited a lack of infrastructure to host Afghan refugees as the reason and called on international organizations, including the United Nations, to assist the Central Asian nation to build such infrastructure. He spoke during a meeting with Mulugeta Zewdie, the country director for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, on September 1.

Rahimzoda noted that 80 Afghan families are currently in a neutral segment of the Tajik-Afghan border area and seek to enter Tajikistan fearing for their lives. Some 5,000 Afghan government troops have already entered Tajikistan as they fled from Taliban advances in recent weeks. The troops were later sent back to Tajikistan.

He also said his ministry is overwhelmed with work related to any possible influx of refugees, stressing that the ongoing instability and the growing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan may cause a “flow of terrorists to other countries."

In the past 15 years, Tajikistan has accepted more than 3,000 families who left Afghanistan and allocated 70 hectares of land in the country's south for setting up a proper camp for refugees two decades ago.

"However, in 20 years no international organizations provided any practical assistance to create an infrastructure to admit refugees and persons who seek asylum. Because of that, the Republic of Tajikistan does not have capacities to accept a big number of refugees or asylum-seekers," the ministry quoted Rahimzoda as saying.

In July, almost 350 ethnic-Kyrgyz shepherds from Afghanistan with their families and some 4,000 livestock fled the country and entered Tajikistan. They were later sent back to their village in Afghanistan, although Kyrgyz authorities asked Dushanbe to secure their safe passage to Kyrgyzstan.

Last month, authorities in Uzbekistan said they had sent 150 Afghan refugees back to Afghanistan under an agreement with the Taliban and at the request of the refugees themselves.

In July, Tajikistan said it was ready to shelter up to 100,000 Afghan refugees but later backed away from that statement.

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