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2015 UNHCR subregional operations profile - Central Asia

| Overview |

UNHCR 2015 Central Asia subregional operations map

In Central Asia, UNHCR's work focuses on developing national asylum systems, seeking solutions for refugees and stateless people and supporting the implementation of emergency preparedness measures.

National refugee legislation in the subregion is inconsistent with international standards. States are preoccupied with cross-border/transnational threats and national security, which impacts asylum policy and the protection of refugees. Progress in political reforms and developments are prerequisites for a favourable protection environment and sustainable solutions for those of concern to UNHCR.

Improving national asylum systems involves ensuring that access to territory, improved reception conditions and refugee status determination (RSD) procedures meet international standards. To advocate for this, regional platforms for refugee protection and international migration, such as the Almaty Process, are used.

Voluntary repatriation is facilitated on a case-by-case basis; however, interest in returning to an uncertain future in Afghanistan has been limited in 2014. Resettlement can help maximize protection dividends in the subregion and address the protracted nature of the Afghan refugee situation, alongside efforts to advocate for alternative stay arrangements, and pursue local integration.

While in 2015 the socio-political environment is not expected to change dramatically, UNHCR does not exclude the possibility of mixed migratory movements from Afghanistan and within the subregion. In relation to this, individual countries are expected to raise national security concerns about asylum and migration, influencing policies. The Office will continue to cooperate with government ministries in Central Asia and partner agencies on overall emergency preparedness, in particular for a possible influx of refugees from Afghanistan.

The UNHCR Seeds for Solutions initiatives in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in 2014 have been designed to target ending statelessness within the next decade.

Turkmenistan is the first and only country in Central Asia to accede to both the 1954 and 1961 UN Statelessness Conventions. UNHCR continues to advocate residence permits for mandate refugees who are not eligible for naturalization, and pursues resettlement for a small number of Afghan refugees. In July 2014, the Government introduced identification and travel documents for refugees and stateless people, which are compliant with the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and will be issued free of charge for refugees.

In Kyrgyzstan, UNHCR is implementing programmes as part of a UN-wide peacebuilding plan funded by the Peacebuilding and Recovery Facility of the UN Peacebuilding Fund. Projects focus on sustainable reintegration of those affected by inter-ethnic clashes in June 2010. Activities include trust- and confidence-building measures between individuals, communities and authorities. In addition, Kyrgyzstan is a pilot country of the Secretary-General's Policy Committee Decision on Durable Solutions. UNHCR, together with the UN Country Team in Kyrgyzstan, is providing the strategic framework for its successful implementation.

In light of the volatile security situation in the Fergana Valley, a joint contingency plan was drafted and endorsed by the Kyrgyz Government in 2013. Several activities, such as joint simulation and high-level working group meetings, have enhanced emergency preparedness for any mass refugee influx from neighbouring countries.

In Kazakhstan, the Government has been responsible for RSD since 2010, but UNHCR continues to cooperate with government agencies dealing with asylum. Kazakhstan hosts approximately 600 refugees and asylum-seekers, and around 7,000 officially-registered stateless people. In 2014, UNHCR, together with the Government, has initiated an information campaign to identify and register stateless people and find solutions to their situation.

Tajikistan hosts approximately 4,000 asylum-seekers and refugees (97 per cent are of Afghan origin), the largest refugee population in Central Asia. The country faces a range of socio-economic challenges affecting both Tajik nationals and refugees. Refugees do not have the freedom to establish their place of residence, and are banned from living in major cities. The asylum system is fragile and the quality of RSD is insufficient. The statelessness of thousands remains a challenge. UNHCR is reinforcing its efforts to address statelessness issues, and promote inter-agency partnerships to enhance emergency preparedness.

The Office has not been present in Uzbekistan since 2006. Nonetheless, it caters for a small number of refugees (133 people), predominantly of Afghan origin, through a project with UNDP aimed at finding solutions for them, including improved stay arrangements and resettlement. Uzbekistan hosts a significant stateless population. The country is not a party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, nor to either of the two Statelessness Conventions.

| Response and implementation |

In Kazakhstan, legislative improvements are required in various laws and administrative procedures to ensure the asylum system functions properly. UNHCR continues to advise on national legislation and share good practice for refugee protection. Advocacy and support efforts continue with a view to the country's accession to the UN Statelessness Conventions and the reduction of statelessness. Contingency planning and emergency preparedness will remain UNHCR priorities.

In Tajikistan, the Office will work closely with the Government and other partners to identify and achieve solutions for stateless people. It will reinforce its inter-agency preparedness work, considering potential displacement scenarios, including in relation to the Afghanistan situation. UNHCR will continue to promote access to asylum and ways to safeguard border management systems, as Tajikistan is located at the crossroads of complex subregional population movements, including human smuggling and trafficking, which often originate in Afghanistan. The organization will support the strengthening of national asylum systems, while ensuring sufficient capacity to address any gaps in mandate RSD.

Priorities for UNHCR in Turkmenistan include: engaging the Government in procedures for receiving asylum-seekers and processing asylum claims, as well as continuing to assist relevant government structures in finding durable solutions for stateless people registered in 2011. In 2015, UNHCR will continue to seek durable solutions through naturalization and resettlement. It will assist the Government in developing and implementing a statelessness status determination procedure. Government partners will receive assistance to develop their refugee emergency preparedness and response capacity.

In Kyrgyzstan, the Office will continue to work towards ending statelessness. Innovative programmes funded by the UNHCR Seeds for Solutions initiative are being implemented with government partners and local NGOs. The activities include on-the-spot registration of undocumented and stateless people by multifunctional mobile teams.

Strategic priorities include: building a comprehensive protection system and providing durable solutions for individual beneficiaries, as well as improving the quality of state registration and RSD. The reintegration strategy entails improved dialogue between the Government and communities, impartial and timely analysis of problematic areas, and collaborative problem solving. It is anticipated that the activities designed as part of the peacebuilding project will be successfully implemented, enabling UNHCR to close its offices in the south by the end of 2015.

In Uzbekistan, provision of services to refugees will continue through the UNDP project aiming at finding solutions. Advocacy efforts to improve stay arrangements and other solutions for refugees will continue with the Government.

| Financial information |

The budget for Central Asia has gradually decreased from USD 33.3 million in 2010, reflecting the activities initiated after the conflict in Kyrgyzstan in 2010, to USD 16.7 million in 2014. For 2015, the subregional budget stands at USD 14.7 million.

UNHCR in Central Asia maintains contingency plans for possible population movements from Afghanistan in the event of any political or social instability. Should there be any significant refugee influxes from Afghanistan to Central Asia, the mobilization of additional funding would be required.

UNHCR 2015 budgets for Central Asia (USD)
Operation 2014
Revised budget
(as of 30 June 2014)
Total 16,680,100 9,052,161 3,959,898 1,657,546 14,669,605
1. Includes activities in Uzbekistan.
Kazakhstan Regional Office[1] 7,428,386 4,742,400 2,526,919 0 7,269,319
Kyrgyzstan 6,298,968 1,857,413 747,425 1,657,546 4,262,384
Tajikistan 2,093,364 2,180,013 263,265 0 2,443,279
Turkmenistan 859,383 272,335 422,289 0 694,624

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2015 Update



Statistical Snapshot*
* As at June 2015
  1. Country or territory of asylum or residence.
  2. Persons recognized as refugees under the 1951 UN Convention/1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention, in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, persons granted a complementary form of protection and those granted temporary protection. It also includes persons in a refugee-like situation for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained. In the absence of Government figures, UNHCR has estimated the refugee population in many industrialized countries based on 10 years of individual asylum-seeker recognition.
  3. Persons whose applications for asylum or refugee status are pending as at 30 June 2015 at any stage in the asylum procedure.
  4. Refugees who have returned to their place of origin during the first half of 2015. Source: country of origin and asylum.
  5. Persons who are displaced within their country and to whom UNHCR extends protection and assistance. It also includes people in IDP-like situations. This category is descriptive in nature and includes groups of persons who are inside their country of nationality or habitual residence and who face protection risks similar to those of IDPs but who, for practical or other reasons, could not be reported as such.
  6. IDPs protected/assisted by UNHCR who have returned to their place of origin during the first half of 2015.
  7. Refers to persons who are not considered as nationals by any State under the operation of its law. This category refers to persons who fall under the agency's statelessness mandate because they are stateless according to this international definition, but data from some countries may also include persons with undetermined nationality.
  8. Refers to individuals who do not necessarily fall directly into any of the other groups but to whom UNHCR may extend its protection and/or assistance services. These activities might be based on humanitarian or other special grounds.
The data are generally provided by Governments, based on their own definitions and methods of data collection.
A dash (-) indicates that the value is zero, not available or not applicable.

Source: UNHCR/Governments.
Compiled by: UNHCR, FICSS.
Residing in Kyrgyzstan [1]
Refugees [2] 433
Asylum Seekers [3] 168
Returned Refugees [4] 0
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Stateless Persons [7] 13,678
Various [8] 0
Total Population of Concern 14,279
Originating from Kyrgyzstan [1]
Refugees [2] 2,423
Asylum Seekers [3] 1,988
Returned Refugees [4] 0
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Various [8] 0
Total Population of Concern 4,411
Government Contributions to UNHCR
Contributions since 2000
More info 71,154
As at 15 January 2015
2013 67,014
2012 67,014
2011 0
2010 0
2009 0
2008 0
2007 0
2006 0
2005 0
2004 0
2003 0
2002 0
2001 0
2000 0

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Kyrgyzstan Situation: 2011 Supplementary Budgetary Requirements

Protection and assistance to returnees and internally displaced persons in southern Kyrgyzstan, January 2011.

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

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.