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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

UNHCR Calls On Tajik Government To Let In Refugees

GENEVA, Switzerland- Dozens of Afghan refugees have reportedly died during months stranded on riverbanks at the border with Tajikistan, the United Nations refugee agency said Monday.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees renewed its call to the government of Tajikistan to allow the 10,000 refugees - including 6,000 children - to cross the border.

"At least 41 people are reported to have died since October because of sickness, disease or war wounds. The victims include new-born triplets and a 20-day-old baby. Many of the deaths may have been preventable if people had been in a position to receive hospital treatment," UNHCR said in a statement.

The refugees were driven from their homes by fighting between opposition forces and the advancing Taliban militia, but the Tajik government has refused to let them in, and UNHCR says it has been given only limited access to the people.

The agency said 1,000 people stranded on the eastern of two promontories along the Pyanj River were in the worst condition. Aid officials who were allowed to pay a brief visit to the Afghans last week found that 60 percent were sick, suffering from diseases including typhoid, malaria and tuberculosis.

"They are drinking unsafe water from the river or shallow wells, have no adequate sanitation and food is in short supply. The nearest Taliban positions are only one kilometer (half a mile) away," the agency said.

UNHCR said it recognized the concerns of the Tajik government that the refugee group included a number of armed combatants, but it said that should not stop authorities allowing the entry of women, children and noncombatant men.

"The promontories' condition and location makes them wholly unsafe and unsuitable places for a civilian population attempting to flee fighting and possible persecution. Their admittance is a matter of the utmost urgency," the agency added.