UNHCR airlifts first 80 tonnes of aid to Uzbekistan for refugees from Kyrgyzstan

News Stories, 16 June 2010

© Reuters/S.Zhumatov
A young worker unloads UNHCR aid from a plane at Andijan airport in Uzbekistan.

ANDIJAN, Uzbekistan, June 16 (UNHCR) The UN refugee on Wednesday began airlifting tonnes of aid to Uzbekistan for tens of thousands of people fleeing violence in southern Kyrgyzstan. The first two flights, loaded with humanitarian aid from the agency's central stockpiles in Dubai, have landed at Andijan airport.

The two Ilyushin-76 cargo planes, belonging to Uzbek Air, brought in 800 lightweight tents, plastic sheeting for emergency shelter, blankets and sleeping mats to meet the growing shelter needs of refugees fleeing from Kyrgyzstan. According to Uzbek authorities, more than 75,000 refugees have sought safety in Uzbekistan since last Friday.

In close coordination with Uzbek authorities, UNHCR tents will be rushed to the eastern part of the country to help shelter thousands of people who were forced to leave their homes in Osh and other towns and villages in southern Kyrgyzstan.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres welcomed the arrival of the first UNHCR aid. "We appreciate the cooperation we're seeing on the part of the Uzbek government in getting this vital assistance through to those in need," he said. "This is a dramatic and rapidly developing refugee situation. The help is urgently required."

Wednesday's flights are the first two of six that will deliver more than 240 tonnes of UNHCR emergency relief items by the end of this week.

The first members of a UNHCR emergency team have arrived in Andijan and the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, and are working with the government on planning and distribution of UNHCR assistance.

UNHCR is also preparing an airlift to Osh and the deployment of an emergency team to Kyrgyzstan, where violence which erupted on June 10 has left scores of people dead and led to the displacement of an estimated 200,000 people within the country. In Osh, UNHCR has opened its warehouse and the initial assistance for 2,000 people is being handed out through partners on the ground.

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A Place to Call Home: The Situation of Stateless Persons in the Kyrgyz Republic

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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

Pakistan Earthquake: The Initial Response

The UN refugee agency is providing hundreds of tonnes of urgently needed relief supplies for victims in northern Pakistan. UNHCR is sending family tents, hospital tents, plastic sheeting, mattresses, kitchen sets, blankets and other items from its global stockpiles. Within a few days of the earthquake, just as its substantial local stocks were all but exhausted, UNHCR began a series of major airlifts from its warehouses around the world, including those in Denmark, Dubai, Jordan and Turkey.

UNHCR does not normally respond to natural disasters, but it quickly joined the UN humanitarian effort because of the sheer scale of the destruction, because the quake affected thousands of Afghan refugees, and because the agency has been operational in Pakistan for more than two decades. North West Frontier Province (NWFP), one of the regions most severely affected by the quake, hosts 887,000 Afghan refugees in camps.

While refugees remain the main focus of UNHCR's concern, the agency is integrated into the coordinated UN emergency response to help quake victims.

Pakistan Earthquake: The Initial Response

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