UNHCR airlifts Uzbek refugees to Kyrgyz capital as Uzbek troops demand return of 12
News Stories, 27 July 2005
GENEVA, July 27 (UNHCR) – The UN refugee agency has started the humanitarian airlift of 455 Uzbek refugees from western Kyrgyzstan to the Kyrgyz capital, pending a further humanitarian transfer. This comes amid intensified pressure from Uzbekistan for the return of 12 among the group.
The first of the 455 refugees were airlifted on Wednesday morning from Jalal-Abad and Osh in western Kyrgyzstan to Bishkek in the north. The 12-flight transfer to Bishkek by two chartered Yak-40s is expected to continue throughout Wednesday and Thursday, ferrying 426 refugees who have been staying in Sasik camp and an additional 29 Uzbeks who have been in detention in Osh.
UNHCR has been advocating for a transfer and emergency resettlement of this group over concerns for their safety and the sensitive asylum climate in Kyrgyzstan. Upon their arrival in Bishkek, the refugees will stay at a temporary location in the capital until details of their further transfer from Kyrgyzstan have been finalised. UNHCR is currently discussing the next stage of the transfer from Bishkek with various countries, but plans are still being finalised.
Meanwhile, UNHCR has voiced serious concerns about the presence of Uzbek military troops outside the detention centre in Osh, demanding the return of 12 Uzbek detainees in particular.
The Kyrgyz authorities have assured UNHCR that the matter will be handled in an appropriate way. Kyrgyzstan is a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which along with Kyrgyz national law, clearly states that refugees cannot be sent back to territories where their life or freedom would be threatened.
The Uzbek refugees fled to Kyrgyzstan following the May 12/13 events in Andijan in Uzbekistan. Over the past weeks, UNHCR has worked closely with the Kyrgyz authorities conducting refugee status determination for the group.
A team of UNHCR legal experts has concluded that 452 of the Uzbeks being transferred are considered refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention, while three who are pending status determination are of concern to UNHCR. All are in need of international protection.
Findings of surveys commissioned by UNHCR, Bishkek 2009.
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
Statelessness in Kyrgyzstan
Two decades after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, thousands of people in former Soviet republics like Kyrgyzstan are still facing problems with citizenship. UNHCR has identified more than 20,000 stateless people in the Central Asian nation. These people are not considered as nationals under the laws of any country. While many in principle fall under the Kyrgyz citizenship law, they have not been confirmed as nationals under the existing procedures.
Most of the stateless people in Kyrgyzstan have lived there for many years, have close family links in the country and are culturally and socially well-integrated. But because they lack citizenship documents, these folk are often unable to do the things that most people take for granted, including registering a marriage or the birth of a child, travelling within Kyrgyzstan and overseas, receiving pensions or social allowances or owning property. The stateless are more vulnerable to economic hardship, prone to higher unemployment and do not enjoy full access to education and medical services.
Since independence in 1991, Kyrgyzstan has taken many positive steps to reduce and prevent statelessness. And UNHCR, under its statelessness mandate, has been assisting the country by providing advice on legislation and practices as well as giving technical assistance to those charged with solving citizenship problems. The refugee agency's NGO partners provide legal counselling to stateless people and assist them in their applications for citizenship.
However, statelessness in Kyrgyzstan is complex and thousands of people, mainly women and children, still face legal, administrative and financial hurdles when seeking to confirm or acquire citizenship. In 2009, with the encouragement of UNHCR, the government adopted a national action plan to prevent and reduce statelessness. In 2011, the refugee agency will help revise the plan and take concrete steps to implement it. A concerted effort by all stakeholders is needed so that statelessness does not become a lingering problem for future generations.
Statelessness in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan: One Year On
A year ago, when violence erupted in Kyrgyzstan, Saliya and her family hid in their basement for three days as fighting raged overhead. Life is slowly returning to normal today.
Kyrgyzstan: The Need to Rebuild
Thousands of displaced people in the town of Osh are struggling to rebuild their homes and their lives.
Kyrgzstan: On the Move
Violence in early June in southern Kyrgyzstan forced some 400,000 people to flee their homes. In the Jalal-Abad region, some discuss their experiences.