Four months on, UNHCR sees progress in Southern Kyrgyzstan

Briefing Notes, 8 October 2010

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 8 October 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Four months on from the violence in southern Kyrgyzstan UNHCR staff there are reporting good progress to date in efforts to help the displaced and returnees.

June's events in the southern cities of Osh and Jalalabad and nearby areas affected around half a million people. Close to 2,000 houses were damaged, and over 1,700 completely destroyed. Some 400,000 people were displaced, including the 75,000 returnees with many losing their personal documents in the process, creating subsequent difficulties for them in resuming a normal life.

After June's violence, UNHCR was given the role of coordinating the Protection and Shelter clusters of the international humanitarian response. Our work has involved the construction of transitional shelters, restoration of personal documentation, protection and community mobilization geared towards securing accommodation for people before winter, as well as ensuring access to basic services. Our teams have also been contributing to confidence building and prevention of future displacement.

With our partners ACTED, the Danish Refugee Council and Save the Children we have been building 1,335 transitional emergency shelters, while ICRC has been building a further 370. As of now, 1,340 foundations have been laid and 841 shelters have had their walls finished or are already covered by roofs. Over a hundred families are expected to move into homes built with UNHCR assistance over the coming week. The worst affected neighborhoods in Osh and Jalalabad appear revitalized with inhabitants constructing transitional shelters on the foundations of their destroyed homes.

Also before the onset of winter, we will be distributing winter clothing and shoes, mattresses, blankets, stoves, kitchen sets and other relief items to thousands of displaced persons, host families as well as other needy persons in Osh and Jalalabad.

To speed the reissuing of lost or damaged personal and property documents, UNHCR has supported the establishment of mobile registration teams to reach people in the worst affected neighborhoods of Osh and Jalalabad. At the same time, we are supporting roving NGO legal clinics that provide free-of-charge legal counseling on land and property issues. During the last three months, some 11,500 people in Osh and Jalalabad regions have benefited from these activities.

With parliamentary elections in Kyrgyzstan this weekend, UNHCR hopes that the situation will stabilize and that urgent humanitarian assistance and confidence building measures will continue to be delivered to people in need.




UNHCR country pages

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

Findings of surveys commissioned by UNHCR, Bishkek 2009.

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

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

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.
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

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.