Tajikistan: UNHCR deplores Afghan deportations, urges government to adhere to its obligations

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR deplores a decision by the government of Tajikistan this week to deport five members of an Afghan refugee family, three of whom had been accepted for resettlement to Canada.

The five - a mother and her four children - had been in Tajikistan since 1992 and were given refugee status in 1995. In 2004, the mother and four children applied for resettlement in Canada. Three of the adult children were accepted by Canada. In early 2005, the national Refugee Status Determination Commission decided to strip the mother of her refugee status, a decision to which the Afghan mother directly appealed in the court. UNHCR's attempts to clarify the grounds and reasons for this decision were to no avail.

The appeal process was still ongoing in the Dushanbe City Court of Law when the mother and her four children, still possessing valid documents issued by the State Migration Services, were put in a detention centre this week without any reason given. Despite UNHCR's immediate contacts with the security authorities and urgent requests for access to the family, the family was deported to Afghanistan. They were unable to speak to a lawyer while in detention, nor were they given the opportunity to exercise their right to appeal the deportation decision within one week in accordance with Tajik law.

We were informed by the wives of two of the adult children that the family had crossed the border into Afghanistan on Wednesday (14 Sept.). The two women remained in Dushanbe and are now separated from their husbands.

UNHCR deplores this refoulement, which regrettably is not the first time and is a clear violation of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1984 Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Tajikistan is a signatory to both Conventions. We are also deeply concerned about the continuous denial to UNHCR of access to persons of concerns in detention. UNHCR strongly urges the Tajik Government to adhere to its international obligations resulting from the refugee Convention and various other human rights instruments.