Kyrgyzstan: UNHCR needs US$23 million to shelter, protect displaced

News Stories, 27 July 2010

© UNHCR/S.Schulman
Still suffering: Some 75,000 displaced people, like this family whose home was destroyed in Bazar Korgon in Jalalabad province in eastern Kyrgyzstan in June, will depend on UNHCR for shelter to make it through winter.

GENEVA, Switzerland, July 27 (UNHCR) Calling on Kyrgyz authorities to improve return conditions for some 75,000 internally displaced people, the UN refugee agency appealed on Monday for US$23 million for emergency shelter and protection projects in southern Kyrgyzstan.

"Fresh funds will allow us to continue our protection, legal and humanitarian assistance to the affected population until the end of the year," UNHCR Chief Spokesperson Melissa Fleming told reporters in Geneva. "These activities include restoration of important identification, civil status and property documents as well as free legal counseling."

UNHCR's appeal is part of the UN Kyrgyzstan flash appeal of US$ 96.4 million launched in Bishkek. Violence in southern Kyrgyzstan in June uprooted 400,000 people. The 100,000 who fled to neighboring Uzbekistan have since returned home, but 75,000 of the 300,000 who scattered within their own country still remain displaced.

Every day UNHCR teams in Osh and Jalabad visit displaced people who complain of detention, harassment and difficulties in getting basic medical services, electricity and garbage and sewage service. The UN refugee agency hears the same messages on its 24-hour hotline.

"We need food, clothes and other things urgently," an elderly woman told UNHCR protection officers in Osh. "We are waiting for something to happen but have not seen results yet. The government has not come to see us yet and we don't know if there's any plan to reconstruct our houses."

UNHCR, working with partners, counsels people on their rights as well as on procedures for restoring lost or destroyed personal documentation, and assists Kyrgyz authorities to enhance its capacity to issue new documents.

"We are encouraged by recent government decisions to establish mobile teams to visit and assist the communities which were affected by June violence and to waive the fee for issuing temporary ID cards," spokesperson Fleming said in Geneva.

Displaced people hope to replace lost single-family homes with similar buildings that reflect their customs and lifestyle rather than accept apartments in multi-storey buildings the government proposes to build. Above all, they want a real home before winter sets in three months from now, bringing temperatures of minus 25° Celsius.

"UNHCR advocates for a stable and sustainable return," Fleming said. "We welcome the recent statement of the President Rosa Otunbaeva calling for a possibility for the affected population to opt for either a new apartment or for the reconstruction of their destroyed home."




UNHCR country pages

Crisis in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan: You can make a difference

Help UNHCR's relief efforts in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

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

Findings of surveys commissioned by UNHCR, Bishkek 2009.

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

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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.
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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.