Tajikistan UNHCR protests further Afghan deportations

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Rupert Colville to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 22 November 2002, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is very concerned following the deportation by the government of Tajikistan last week of five Afghans, all persons of concern to the UN refugee agency. The five Afghans were deported on 16 November. We learned from their families, whom they managed to call from Afghanistan. Authorities recently detained more than 30 Afghans who were picked up on the streets of Dushanbe and from their homes on 9 November and kept in detention while their documents were examined. Among those Afghans initially detained but released were two minors and two men undergoing medical treatment, one for diabetes and the other recovering following a recent operation.

Among the five expelled last weekend were two people known to us, including one man who was due to be resettled to a third country in the coming weeks. The recent deportation follows a similar expulsion of nine Afghans on 16 September. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had assured UNHCR after this first incident that no more deportations would occur.

UNHCR had written to the Tajik authorities protesting the detention and deportation of Afghans. These are all people of concern to our office who may face grave danger back in Afghanistan because of their possible association with previous Afghan regimes. We had met with the authorities on Friday, a day before the latest group was expelled, and were assured that there would be no further deportations.

Tajikistan suspended screening for refugee status determination two years ago, leaving refugees and asylum seekers in a particularly precarious situation. Following the repatriation of more than 9,200 refugees over the last year, about 2,500 Afghan refugees remain in the country.