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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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Home Without Land

Land is hot property in mountainous Afghanistan, and the lack of it is a major reason Afghans in exile do not want to return.

Although landless returnees are eligible for the Afghan government's land allocation scheme, demand far outstrips supply. By the end of 2007, the authorities were developing 14 settlements countrywide. Nearly 300,000 returnee families had applied for land, out of which 61,000 had been selected and 3,400 families had actually moved into the settlements.

Desperate returnees sometimes have to camp in open areas or squat in abandoned buildings. Others occupy disputed land where aid agencies are not allowed to build permanent structures such as wells or schools.

One resilient community planted itself in a desert area called Tangi in eastern Afghanistan. With help from the Afghan private sector and the international community, water, homes, mosques and other facilities have sprouted – proof that the right investment and commitment can turn barren land into the good earth.

Posted on 31 January 2008

Home Without Land

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

Afghans Return Home

In the six months since some 150 families returned from Pakistan's Jalozai refugee village, they have faced land problems and ethnic tensions. Today, however, they face the prospect of spending a bitter winter in northern Afghanistan with little more for shelter than canvas tents.

After 23 years of exile in Pakistan, Qayum and his family returned home to northern Afghanistan earlier this year ago after negotiating to buy land in Sholgara district. But a local tribe refused to let Qayum and his neighbours unload their trucks. The provincial authorities moved them to their current site at Mohajir Qeshlaq. The government has promised Qayum and his neighbours land, but until individual plots can be demarcated and distributed, nobody can build. This means that the entire returnee village - some 150 families - lives under canvas. As the weather turns cold, the prospect of spending an Afghan winter in a tent becomes reality. Returnees also face a food shortage, insufficient water and lack of livelihood opportunities.

In an effort to help, UNHCR will provide supplies to Qayum and his community through the winter. Once the land issue is resolved, the agency will also dig wells and provide shelter assistance to the most vulnerable families at Mohajir Qeshlaq. But it will take more to turn this makeshift settlement into something they can call home.

Afghans Return Home

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