Thursday, 25 June, 2009

MP Tim Uppal visits refugee camps in Pakistan

Tim Uppal ,a conservative MP visited the Mardan Camp in Pakistan.
Canada: At the end of May, Tim Uppal, MP for Edmonton-Sherwood Park, took a trip. But not just any trip. At his own expense, time and with no government association, Uppal flew to Pakistan to witness firsthand the refugee camps in Marzan that are bursting at the seams.
Uppal raised the issue in the House of Commons on May 14, and asked the Pakistani government to ensure the security and safety of all its citizens, including religious minorities. According to the United Nations, almost two million people have been forced from their homes in the northern Pakistan region due to conflict.
The displaced citizens are mostly from the Swat Valley region of the country, where the Pakistani government is currently waging a war with the Taliban. Uppal went to the camps because he and many constitutents across Canada expressed concerns about the treatment of religious minorities — Christians, Sikhs and Hindus to name a few— by the Taliban and the mass displacement due to the armed conflict.
Uppal said as he looked into the issue more he found out that homes were being destroyed, taxes were being demanded by the Taliban for any non-Muslim and that terror was being spread throughout the region. He wished to speak to the Pakistani government regarding these issues.
Uppal had two meetings with the Pakistani Minister of Minority Affairs, and received assurance from him the government would protect religious minorities and those who had been internally displaced by the Taliban. Not only would this protection be in place while they stayed in the camp but would also extend to when they were able to safely return to what is left of their homes. Uppal was also told that the basic needs of the people would remain a top priority.
While Uppal wasn’t expecting a pretty picture, he was still shocked by the living conditions in the refugee camps.
Anywhere between 13,000 to 15,000 people live in the camps in Marzan, in small tents as far as the eye can see. While Uppal saw first hand that their basic needs were being met, there were some things he was concerned about.
Tim Uppal visited the Mardan Camp in Pakistan
The Swat Valley region, located along the northwest border of Pakistan and Afghanistan, is an area generally much cooler than Marzan. As a result, the refugees clothing is not meant for the heat of the region, and their bodies are having a hard time adjusting to the ever climbing temperatures. It is hard to keep a handle on the sickness and disease that comes as a result.
Both the Red Cross and World Food Program are in the area, along with other non-governmental organizations, but people in the camps said that food distribution had been very slow. When Uppal asked the Red Cross about that, they explained that it was a logistical issue — there are just too many people coming in, and coming in fast. The Red Cross and other organizations said that is something they are working on, and hope to have it remedied in the near future.
“I got an overwhelming feeling of being grateful of coming from and living in a place like Canada,” Uppal said about the scene in the camps. “Citizens here would not be left to those types of poor conditions.”

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