Crisis in Kyrgyzstan leaves 300,000 internally displaced

News Stories, 17 June 2010

© REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov
A man carries bread as he moves through a crowd of scared ethnic Uzbek civilians waiting to cross the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border.

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan, June 17 (UNHCR) Violence in southern Kyrgyzstan has forced an estimated 300,000 people to flee their homes and seek shelter elsewhere in the country. This is in addition to some 100,000 people who have fled to neighbouring Uzbekistan since June 10.

Most of the internally displaced are being sheltered by family and host communities, but some 40,000 people are in need of shelter. The figures for internal displacement have been provided by the Kyrgyz Interim Government and non-governmental organizations on the ground.

The Kyrgyz authorities are trying to restore law and order in the south, where they report that some 180 people have been killed and 1,900 injured.

The situation in the town of Osh and nearby villages appears to be volatile. Sporadic clashes have reportedly taken place around the town of Jalalabad and the situation there is tense. Many families have left Osh and Jalalabad and made their way to Bishkek and other areas, fearing further violence.

UNHCR and other UN humanitarian agencies currently have no access to southern Kyrgyzstan. Despite this absence UNHCR has made available its stocks of relief items to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for distribution to some 10,000 displaced people in Osh.

A UN security assessment in the south is under way today. UNHCR hopes this assessment will allow operations to commence in some areas in Osh by this weekend.

A UNHCR airlift to Kyrgyzstan is scheduled to begin this weekend. Two planes loaded with 80 tonnes of relief from UNHCR's emergency stockpile in Dubai will bring assistance for 15,000 people.

Members of an emergency response team are already in country or en route to Kyrgyzstan. Additional staff are being deployed to help respond to the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

Meanwhile, the government of Uzbekistan has been providing assistance and shelter to an estimated 100,000 refugees who have fled the spiralling violence in Kyrgyzstan. The influx has been mainly to Andijan province, where some 80,000 people have arrived since last Friday. The provinces of Fergana and Namangan host some 8,000 and 3,500 people respectively.

Most of the displaced are being accommodated in schools, warehouses and in several sports centres. The newly arrived refugee population in Uzbekistan is in need of additional humanitarian support, including water, food and shelter.

The UNHCR emergency airlift to Uzbekistan has delivered 160 tonnes of aid since the first cargo plane arrived in Andijan on Wednesday. Another two flights to Andijan are scheduled for Friday.

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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

Sri Lanka: IDPs and Returnees

During Sri Lanka's 20-year civil war more than 1 million people were uprooted from their homes or forced to flee, often repeatedly. Many found shelter in UNHCR-supported Open Relief Centers, in government welfare centers or with relatives and friends.

In February 2002, the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) signed a cease-fire accord and began a series of talks aimed at negotiating a lasting peace. By late 2003, more than 300,000 internally displaced persons had returned to their often destroyed towns and villages.

In the midst of these returns, UNHCR provided physical and legal protection to war affected civilians – along with financing a range of special projects to provide new temporary shelter, health and sanitation facilities, various community services, and quick and cheap income generation projects.

Sri Lanka: IDPs and Returnees

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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 RebuildPlay video

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 MovePlay video

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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.