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.

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

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

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

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.
Kyrgyzstan: One Year OnPlay video

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.