Kazakhstan: UNHCR concern for arrested Uzbek refugee

Briefing Notes, 30 June 2006

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 30 June 2006, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is concerned about an Uzbek refugee who was arrested by Kazakh security agents on June 24 in Almaty. The Uzbek refugee, who has been living in the country for seven years with his family, has been in prison since his arrest and UNHCR has had no access to him. The refugee has managed to call his wife, who said he reported that Uzbekistan had allegedly asked for his arrest. Kazakhstan would decide about his deportation within 10 days, he told his wife.

Upon hearing of his arrest, UNHCR immediately appealed to the Kazakh authorities for access to the refugee and sought information on the alleged charges against him. Despite assurances of cooperation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, our office in Kazakhstan has only been told that we must wait until an "internal investigation on the case is completed." Despite several requests from UNHCR over the past six days, we still have no access or further information.

The Uzbek refugee arrived in Kazakhstan in 1999 fearing persecution because of his practice of Islam outside of the Uzbek state-run mosques. He obtained a Kazakh residence permit in 2003. He first came to UNHCR in 2005 to ask for refugee status following a visit to his house by Kazakh security agents. He reported that all of his family's identity documents had been confiscated.

After a thorough status determination procedure, UNHCR recognised the Uzbek as a refugee in June 2006. This procedure included a confirmation from Kazakh authorities that no criminal charges or cases had been filed against him.

Kazakhstan is a signatory to the 1951 Convention on refugees and has always been committed to its international obligations. In July 2005, Kazakhstan arrested an Uzbek human rights activist upon the request of Uzbekistan, but consequently released him and put him into the care of UNHCR. This principled decision came at a time when neighbouring countries had been coming under strong pressure from Uzbekistan to return Uzbek asylum seekers and refugees.

UNHCR strongly encourages Kazakhstan to continue to adhere to international protection principles and we appeal to the government not to deport this refugee and to allow us immediate access to him.

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