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UNHCR launches shelter project in Kyrgyzstan amid continuing instability

Briefing Notes, 24 August 2010

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 24 August 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR and its partners are racing against time in southern Kyrgyzstan to construct transitional shelters for displaced families whose homes were destroyed during the violence, arson and looting in June. With the coming winter only months away we estimate that some 75,000 people remain displaced and need shelter.

Some of these people are being accommodated in UNHCR tents which we provided as part of our emergency response to the displacement crisis. Others are staying with families, friends or neighbours.

The situation in southern Kyrgyzstan is still tense. As the lead protection agency, monitoring access of the displaced population to basic rights and services, we have been working with the authorities on prompt registration and restoration of lost or destroyed personal identity documents. Without these documents people face difficulties in getting access to services and exercising their social, economic and political rights. We have been supporting the Kyrgyz government in establishing mobile teams to visit affected areas and to re-issue identity documents. Our local partners also help by providing advice and practical information to displaced communities as well as individual counseling on documentation issues.

Systematic monitoring and interventions by UNHCR partners commenced just days after the violence subsided and are ongoing. Toll-free counseling helplines and desks were set up, allowing affected communities to report issues and seek advice on how to exercise their rights and where to access services.

Pending the provision of permanent housing for displaced people through the government reconstruction programme, UNHCR developed a transitional shelter strategy to help people whose homes have been completely destroyed. Some 900 most vulnerable families in Osh and another 450 in Jalalabad are being provided with warm transitional shelters on the plots or foundations of their destroyed homes before the onset of winter. In addition, we plan to distribute more humanitarian aid and continue to help the displaced living with host families to survive winter.

The actual implementation of this crucial shelter effort, developed in coordination with Kyrgyz authorities, began early this week. Vast amounts of rubble have been cleared from the sites of destroyed homes and buildings, which is a first step to rebuilding. Procurement of construction material is underway, and the first tons of gravel, sand, reinforcement steel, nails and cement are being delivered this week to construction sites.

So far, the authorities have agreed to start rubble removal and construction for three quarters of an estimated 2,000 completely destroyed households. The remaining quarter is mainly in Osh city. We welcome the government's commitment not to force the relocation of displaced communities and to respect private property. The government is yet to publish its reconstruction plans for the parts of southern Kyrgyzstan which were hit by violence and destruction in June.

Our part of the revised UN Flash Appeal for the period from June to December this year amounts to US$ 26 million. The appeal remains seriously under funded. Meanwhile, the cost of construction material has increased significantly, in some instances up to 50 per cent, such as wood for the framing of foundations and roof beams. Additional funds are urgently needed to cover the remaining need to avoid further displacement.

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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

Myanmar IDPs pick up the pieces in Rakhine state

A humanitarian crisis is unfolding across Myanmar's Rakhine state, where some 115,000 people are desperately in need of aid after being displaced during two waves of inter-communal violence in June and October 2012. The displaced, most of them ethnic Rohingya, have sought shelter in temporary relief camps and others remain scattered across the state, living under tight security in their destroyed villages. Conditions are harsh: the camps are overcrowded and some lack even the most basic of sanitation facilities while many of the villages are totally destroyed and running low on water. In one village, more than 32 families were living cheek-by-jowl in just two large tents. The children have no access to education and the newborn and elderly are in a very vulnerable position due to a lack of medical facilities. UNHCR is distributing relief supplies and working with the authorities and partners to improve camp conditions, but international assistance is required.

Myanmar IDPs pick up the pieces in Rakhine state

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