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UNHCR Global Appeal 1999 - Regional Overview: Central Asia

UNHCR Fundraising Reports, 1 December 1998

During the 1992 civil war in Tajikistan, some 600,000 persons became internally displaced within the country and another 60,000 sought refuge in neighbouring countries, mostly in northern Afghanistan. UNHCR began repatriating Tajik refugees a year later, as the conflict subsided. Between 1993 and 1995, almost all internally displaced persons and some 40,000 refugees had returned to their former homes. A lack of progress in the inter-Tajik peace talks curtailed repatriation of the remaining Tajik refugees drastically during 1996 and early 1997. But one month after the signing of the General Agreement on the Establishment of Peace and National Accord in Tajikistan in June 1997, UNHCR recommenced the voluntary repatriation programme. By the end of 1997, some 10,200 Tajik refugees had returned from Afghanistan; the repatriation programme from that country was completed. Repatriation of Tajiks from Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan began in early 1998. As of mid-October, some 2,000 Tajik refugees have repatriated from these two countries and some 1,000 are expected to repatriate under this programme during the last months of 1998.

UNHCR's 1998 reintegration and rehabilitation activities in returnee areas, mostly in southern Tajikistan, focused on rebuilding some 2,000 homes that were destroyed during the civil war. Other projects included repairing community infrastructure, such as clinics, schools, and water and irrigation systems, and providing returnees with agricultural tools and seeds.

Return and local settlement

It is projected that some 5,000 Tajiks will return home from other Central Asian republics, Pakistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) during 1999. They will receive UNHCR assistance upon return to facilitate their reintegration. In Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan, some 15,000 Tajik refugees of Kyrgyz ethnic origin and another 15,000 Tajik refugees of Turkmen ethnic origin have expressed their desire to opt for local settlement and integration. The concerned Governments have thus far responded favourably to proposals for local settlement which will eventually lead to the acquisition of citizenship. UNHCR plans to seek durable solutions for these Tajik refugees by providing local settlement assistance in 1999 and 2000.

Capacity-building

Since late 1995 when UNHCR country offices were established in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan (in addition to those opened in 1993 in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan), UNHCR's primary focus has been to assist the Governments in developing their administrative and legal structures to manage refugees and other displaced populations. During the past five years, three countries (Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan) have acceded to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol; Kazakhstan is in the process of finalizing accession formalities. National legislation and refugee status determination procedures have either been or are going to be put in place in all five republics. As part of this effort, UNHCR together with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Governments in the region established the Bishkek Migration Management Centre in 1997. The Centre serves the whole region in developing migration legislation and policies. Institutional capacity-building, however, cannot be accomplished quickly. During 1999, UNHCR will continue training government ministries/departments/units entrusted with the responsibility for implementing the new laws and managing refugee protection and assistance. Training focuses on refugee law, refugee status determination and registration and related issues.

Strenghtening NGOs

With small grants provided by the NGO Fund (which was established in 1997 as part of the follow-up to the CIS Conference's Programme of Action), UNHCR provided financial and technical support to local NGOs in all five Central Asian republics. This support, delivered during 1998, helped strengthen the NGOs' organizational skills and capacity for designing and managing project activities.

Focus on children

In April 1998, UNHCR's Regional Policy Officer for Children began work from her base in Tajikistan. She is responsible for formulating policy concerning regional activities that address the needs of refugee and returnee children. Three pilot projects were launched in the last quarter of 1998. They are: a survey of refugee/returnee children in five countries; promotion of child rights in schools in Tajikistan; and tolerance education.

Budget US$

The budget does not include costs at Headquarters.

CountryGeneral programmesSpecial programmesTotal
Kazakhstan597,000597,000
Kyrgyzstan1,265,9101,265,910
Tajikistan*880,8603,429,2654,310,125
Turkmenistan531,860531,860
Uzbekistan1,311,5701,311,570
TOTAL4,587,2003,429,2658,016,465

* Includes costs in Tajikistan, while the budget presented on page 217 includes costs in Tajikistan, asylum countries and at Headquarters.

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Return to Swat Valley

Thousands of displaced Pakistanis board buses and trucks to return home, but many remain in camps for fear of being displaced again.

Thousands of families displaced by violence in north-west Pakistan's Swat Valley and surrounding areas are returning home under a government-sponsored repatriation programme. Most cited positive reports about the security situation in their home areas as well as the unbearable heat in the camps as key factors behind their decision to return. At the same time, many people are not yet ready to go back home. They worry about their safety and the lack of access to basic services and food back in Swat. Others, whose homes were destroyed during the conflict, are worried about finding accommodation. UNHCR continues to monitor people's willingness to return home while advocating for returns to take place in safety and dignity. The UN refugee agency will provide support for the transport of vulnerable people wishing to return, and continue to distribute relief items to the displaced while assessing the emergency shelter needs of returnees. More than 2 million people have been displaced since early May in north-west Pakistan. Some 260,000 found shelter in camps, but the vast majority have been staying with host families or in rented homes or school buildings.

Return to Swat Valley

Afghanistan: An Uncertain Future

For over a quarter of a century, Afghanistan has been devastated by conflict and civil strife, with some 8 million people uprooted internally and in neighbouring countries. The overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 resulted in one of the largest and most successful return operations in history.

Seven years on, more than 5 million Afghan refugees have returned - increasing Afghanistan's population by an estimated 20 percent.The large majority have gone back to their areas of origin. However, some recent returnees are facing more difficulties as the country's absorption capacity reaches its limits in some areas. Last year, some Afghans returned before they were ready or able to successfully reintegrate due to the closure of refugee villages as well as the deteriorating conditions in Pakistan. In consequence, 30,000 Afghan refugees returned to further displacement in their homeland, unable to return to their villages due to conflict, lack of land, shelter materials, basic services and job opportunities. These challenges have been compounded elsewhere across the country by food insecurity and severe drought.

UNHCR and the Afghan Foreign Ministry highlighted the requirements for sustainable refugee return and reintegration at an international conference in Kabul in November 2008. The donor community welcomed the inclusion of refugee reintegration within the government's five-year national development strategy and the emphasis on land, shelter, water, sanitation, education, health care and livelihoods. It is anticipated that repatriation and reintegration will become more challenging in future.

Afghanistan: An Uncertain Future

The crisis in Kyrgyzstan

UNHCR was monitoring the returns of refugees and other displaced people to southern Kyrgyzstan as tens of thousands of people headed back to their communities. Violent clashes in Osh and other cities in southern Kyrgyzstan earlier this month had sent an estimated 300,000 fleeing to the countryside, while 100,000 had fled across the border into Uzbekistan.

Days after the attacks, Kyrgyz authorities were still trying to restore law and order in the south, where they reported that some 180 people were killed and 1,900 injured. Many of the internally displaced have been staying with host families with many also sleeping rough. In Uzbekistan, authorities reported more than 50 sites hosting refugees in the border provinces of Andijan, Ferghana and Namangan. Some refugees were staying in schools and other public buildings.

UNHCR has provided more than 300 tonnes of emergency assistance in a series of relief flights over the past week, working with the concerned governments and local partners in sometimes hazardous conditions.

The crisis in Kyrgyzstan

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