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UNHCR chief welcomes regional commitments in Central Asia to protect migrant and asylum-seeker rights

Press Releases, 5 June 2013

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, welcomed today the collective commitment and resolve of the four Central Asian countries and other states in the region to improve legal procedures and strengthen cooperation to protect the rights of migrants and asylum-seekers during mixed migration movements.

High Commissioner Guterres called on governments to develop immigration policies that ensured basic human rights. "States have the right to define their own immigration and national security policies provided they do so in respect for human dignity and basic rights, and in ways that ensure international protection is granted to those who need it."

Guterres was attending the second Ministerial Conference on Refugee Protection and International Migration in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

In the first conference in 2011, Central Asian countries, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, together with UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), had agreed on a cooperation and consultative platform known as the Almaty Process. The consultations also include other countries from the region that share related migration concerns, notably Afghanistan, Iran, Azerbaijan and Turkey.

The UN refugee agency chief commended progress made in the last two years by saying, "The Almaty Process allows countries to develop response mechanisms that address the legitimate concerns of States, such as border management and security, while ensuring that those who wish to seek asylum can do so, irrespective of the circumstances in which they have arrived at the border."

Stressing the importance of broader regional cooperation while finding meaningful solutions for population movements in future, Guterres highlighted that people forced to leave their homes are often part of mixed migratory movements and finding quick solutions for them remains a challenge.

"Forced displacement today affects more people, and for longer periods of time, than only a decade ago. It is also growing in complexity."

He added conflict and upheaval were no longer the only reasons forcing people to abandon their homes. "In an increasingly imbalanced world, displacement is often compounded and reinforced by factors such as the effects of climate change, population growth, food insecurity and water scarcity."

This year's meeting was also attended by observers from the United States, European Union, , numerous international and regional organizations as well as representatives of civil society. The meeting was hosted by the Republic of Kazakhstan and co-organised by UNHCR and IOM.

Countries during the meeting agreed to continue regional dialogue and strengthen cooperation on migration to ensure respect for human rights, access to asylum and compliance with the principle of non-refoulement.

For further information please contact:

  • In Almaty, Kazakhstan, Babar Baloch on mobile +41 79 5579106
  • In Almaty, Kazakhstan, Zhanna Dossova on mobile +7 777 666 2277
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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

I Am StatelessPlay video

I Am Stateless

Railya was born in Kazakhstan but lost her nationality with the break-up of the Soviet Union.
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.