UNHCR reiterates concern over 15 detained Uzbeks

News Stories, 3 August 2005

© UNHCR
Sasik camp's 439 Uzbek refugees have left for Romania, but another 15 remain in detention further south in Osh, western Kyrgyzstan.

GENEVA, August 3 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency has reiterated serious concerns over the fate of 15 Uzbeks who remain in detention in Kyrgyzstan after 439 of their fellow exiles were airlifted to Romania last Friday.

UNHCR is still working with the Kyrgyz authorities for the release of the 15 Uzbeks being detained in the border town of Osh in western Kyrgyzstan. Twelve of them have been recognised as refugees while three are presently undergoing status determination and therefore fall under the protection of the 1951 Refugee Convention. Eleven of the 15 have already been accepted by three European countries for resettlement.

"We hope that the people living in difficult circumstances in detention will be released as soon as possible," said Ekber Menemencioglu, the Geneva-based director of UNHCR's Central Asia, South-west Asia, North Africa and Middle East bureau. "There is a strong possibility that they would face persecution if returned to Uzbekistan. We have to remember that despite all our requests so far, we still have not received any official information about the four asylum seekers who were deported in early June to Uzbekistan."

He stressed that the 1951 Refugee Convention is an internationally recognised legal instrument to which Kyrgyzstan has acceded. "We continue to have faith that the Kyrgyz authorities will stand by their principles and release these people before long," Menemencioglu added.

Meanwhile, the 439 Uzbeks who were airlifted to Romania last week are now staying in a reception centre in the western city of Timisoara. They've received medical attention, hot meals, soap, shampoo, towels and bed-linen for what UNHCR has assured the Romanian government will be a short stay.

Representatives of countries like Australia, Canada and the United States are now working closely with UNHCR staff and Romanian authorities to interview the refugees for permanent resettlement. To speed up the process, a total of 20 UNHCR staff members have been sent to Timisoara to help their colleagues on the ground.

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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

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