A year on, southern Kyrgyzstan still plagued by displacement, lack of trust

Briefing Notes, 10 June 2011

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Sybella Wilkes to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 10 June 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Tens of thousands of people are still displaced in southern Kyrgyzstan a year after deadly clashes there. UNHCR believes that confidence-building efforts need strengthening to ensure sustainable returns and genuine reconciliation.

More than 400 people were killed and 375,000 others were forced to flee their homes when communal violence hit southern Kyrgyzstan between June 10 and 14 last year, mainly in Osh and Jalalabad. Of those displaced, some 75,000 fled to neighbouring Uzbekistan while 300,000 were uprooted within Kyrgyzstan. More than 2,000 homes were destroyed and many more were looted.

Most of those uprooted were able to soon return to their places of origin. However, about 60,000 people are still scattered across Kyrgyzstan and abroad today. Some say their houses were damaged, others cite security concerns, or a lack of living space and jobs back home. An additional 20,000 people are living with host families.

Within 100 days of last summer's events, UNHCR had helped to build emergency transitional shelters for more than 13,400 people whose homes were destroyed. Last winter, we also distributed tons of coal, warm clothing and relief items to 21,000 people to help them through six months of cold weather.

People are slowly picking up their lives, but further improvements in security and the economy are needed for life to return to normal. We hear repeatedly from different individuals that even today there is distrust of the local authorities. There is still a certain degree of suspicion between communities, and the most affected groups are not yet fully ready for reconciliation. UNHCR teams are working in 50 locations across Osh and Jalalabad to monitor the situation and discuss and seek solutions for emerging issues with the communities and authorities.

UNHCR runs a round-the-clock toll-free hotline that receives about 100 calls a week. Callers are mostly concerned about the delivery of assistance, counseling about property and legal rights, access to public services, security issues and how to restore businesses and employment.

Today, UNHCR and our partners continue to assist some 280,000 people in Osh and Jalalabad affected by last June's events. We are funding mobile teams to help them restore identity and property documents that were lost or damaged in last year's violence.

Longer-term, there is a need to restore communication and rebuild confidence between communities and authorities to facilitate reconciliation and lasting peace. We have been promoting dialogue and cooperation between different groups through joint project and activities. UNHCR is also focusing on the legal and socio-economic needs of affected people, with special attention to the vulnerable and those with specific needs. We have started quick impact projects to rehabilitate small infrastructure, generate income and build peace.

UNHCR is currently seeking US$ 5.4 million from donors to implement these activities. We have received just over half of the $11.4 million we need for our work in Kyrgyzstan this year.

Media representatives interested in an accompanying UNHCR video to this story may access it via the following link http://unhcr.org/v-4df1cc736

(An international version of the video is also available on request)

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan: Natalia Prokopchuk on mobile +996 77 598 4224
  • In Geneva: Babar Baloch on mobile +41 79 557 9106



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.