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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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UNHCR Goodwill Envoy Khaled Hosseini visited Afghanistan in early September and saw first-hand one of the UN refugee agency's largest and most complex operations. During a 10-day trip, the best-selling author visited UNHCR projects and met returnees in the northern provinces of Kunduz, Baghlan, Balkh, Parwan and Kabul. Hosseini, a former Afghan refugee now settled in the United States, noted that it would take time and effort for Afghanistan to provide returnees with adequate infrastructure and services. He urged the international community to remain committed to Afghanistan and to give the country time. Hosseini could not visit the south and parts of the east, where insecurity is impacting on the ability of UNHCR to assess needs and provide assistance to those who need it the most. Since 2003, UNHCR has helped more than 4 million refugees return to Afghanistan. This year, some 300,000 Afghan refugees have returned from Pakistan. More than 900,000 remain in Iran and 2 million in Pakistan.

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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.

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