Large numbers of refugees returning to Kyrgyzstan need humanitarian aid

News Stories, 25 June 2010

© UNHCR/A.Rummery
A UNHCR staff member interviews some of the returnees in the burned school in Tashlak district.

JALAL-ABAD, Kyrgyzstan, June 25 (UNHCR) Amid mass returns from Uzbekistan to Kyrgyzstan, UNHCR field officers have been visiting groups of returning refugees and displaced people near the southern towns of Osh and Jalal-Abad.

According to the Kyrgyz authorities, 70,000 refugees have returned so far. At the same time, internally displaced people (IDPs) are also returning to their places of origin.

Both refugees and IDPs have expressed mixed feelings to UNHCR staff about going home. Although they want to be reunited with their families, many are worried for their safety and about going back to destroyed, damaged or looted homes.

"We are concerned about the voluntary nature of returns in some cases. UNHCR's view is that where people are returning, they should be able to do so on an informed basis and in conditions of safety, voluntariness, and sustainability," a spokesman for the refugee agency said.

Another concern is that refugees may be returning to situations of further displacement because many homes have been destroyed or badly damaged. "We are seeing people moving in with families in their former neighbourhoods. Conditions are crowded and there is an urgent need to further increase assistance," the UNHCR spokesman said.

In the district of Tashlak, UNHCR on Friday visited some 70 people from 10 families who were taking shelter in a burnt-out school after returning from Uzbekistan on Thursday. UNHCR staff handed out kitchen sets, sleeping mats and plastic sheeting for shelter. Almost every house has been looted and burnt in the district.

Ismailia, 58, was in tears as she told UNHCR she had to leave her daughter behind in Uzbekistan because the younger woman gave birth in a refugee camp on Tuesday and could not travel. "It happened earlier than we expected because she was so worried. I am so sad it happened in such conditions, although she was looked after," she said, adding that she expected her daughter back soon.

Shozizah, 67, stayed in Uzbekistan only one day before returning with the rest of her community on Thursday evening. She had stayed behind when the other women in her community fled because she wanted to look after her husband.

She hid in her house, which was one of the few in the district to be spared destruction as it was hidden behind the school. "The armed people came back shooting and I was really scared. I decided to escape," Shozizah said, adding that "now I am cooking for everybody as I am the only one with a kitchen."

Matuna also remained in Kyrgyzstan, hiding with a friend. She said the familyhad been preparing for her daughetr's wedding before the violence erupted on June 10. "We were collecting gold and clothes and other things for her wedding. It was to take place next month. But now it is all gone. All the clothes are burnt," she said biterly.

UNHCR's emergency team in Osh delivered relief supplies on Friday morning. They report a generally calm situation, some traffic on the streets and smaller markets open, but also significant destruction

Currently, UNHCR has four more relief flights scheduled for this weekend into Osh. Each will bring some 40 tonnes of urgently needed tents, blankets, plastic sheeting, kitchen utensils and other non-food relief items.

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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

Kyrgzstan: On the MovePlay video

Kyrgzstan: On the Move

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.

UNHCR country pages

Crisis in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan: You can make a difference

Help UNHCR's relief efforts in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

Emergency Response

UNHCR is committed to increasing its ability to respond to complex emergency situations.

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

Findings of surveys commissioned by UNHCR, Bishkek 2009.

Returnees in Myanmar

During the early 1990s, more than 250,000 Rohingya Muslims fled across the border into Bangladesh, citing human rights abuses by Myanmar's military government. In exile, refugees received shelter and assistance in 20 camps in the Cox's Bazaar region of Bangladesh. More than 230,000 of the Rohingya Muslims have returned since 1992, but about 22,000 still live in camps in Bangladesh. To promote stability in returnee communities in Myanmar and to help this group of re-integrate into their country, UNHCR and its partner agencies provide monitors to insure the protection and safety of the returnees as well as vocational training, income generation schemes, adult literacy programs and primary education.

Returnees in Myanmar

Lebanese Returnees Receive Aid

UNHCR started distributing emergency relief aid in devastated southern Lebanese villages in the second half of August. Items such as tents, plastic sheeting and blankets are being distributed to the most vulnerable. UNHCR supplies are being taken from stockpiles in Beirut, Sidon and Tyre and continue to arrive in Lebanon by air, sea and road.

Although 90 percent of the displaced returned within days of the August 14 ceasefire, many Lebanese have been unable to move back into their homes and have been staying with family or in shelters, while a few thousand have remained in Syria.

Since the crisis began in mid-July, UNHCR has moved 1,553 tons of supplies into Syria and Lebanon for the victims of the fighting. That has included nearly 15,000 tents, 154,510 blankets, 53,633 mattresses and 13,474 kitchen sets. The refugee agency has imported five trucks and 15 more are en route.

Posted on 29 August 2006

Lebanese Returnees Receive Aid

Angelina Jolie visits Baghdad   Play video

Angelina Jolie visits Baghdad

On her recent trip to the Middle East, UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie met internally displaced Iraqis and refugee returnees to Baghdad.
South Sudan: Nearly HomePlay video

South Sudan: Nearly Home

The returnees head by bus for their ancestral home in South Sudan. Some are jubilant. Others are apprehensive.
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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.