UNHCR welcomes accession of Kazakhstan to the 1951 Refugee Convention

Press Releases, 1 February 1999

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees welcomes the ratification by Kazakhstan of the main international instrument to protect refugees. Kazakhstan acceded to the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol relating to the status of refugees on 15 January 1999. Kazakhstan is the fourth country in Central Asia to ratify the Convention, following Tajikistan (7 December 1993), Kyrgyzstan (8 October 1996) and Turkmenistan (2 March 1998).

UNHCR estimates that there are up to 14,000 refugees and asylum-seekers in Kazakhstan, of whom 1,000 are registered with the authorities. They are mainly from Afghanistan, the Russian Federation (Chechnya) and Tajikistan. About 450 persons have been recognized as refugees since April 1998, when the Kazakh authorities assumed responsibility for the refugee status determination procedure.

Various migration movements have taken place in Kazakhstan since the country became independent in December 1991. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, hundreds of thousands of people crossed Kazakh borders, including returning ethnic Kazakhs from Mongolia, emigrating ethnic Russians and ethnic Germans, and persons fleeing ecological disaster areas.

Kazakhstan participated actively in the Commonwealth of Independent States Conference on refugees and migrants which was held in May 1996 and in its follow-up process. This Conference was organized jointly by UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

UNHCR established an office in Almaty in 1995 and will continue to support the Kazakh authorities in developing legislation relating to refugees and in strengthening the country's asylum institutions. UNHCR has launched a global campaign to encourage states to ratify the international agreements on refugees and stateless persons by the year 2000. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, recently addressed a letter to the Foreign Ministers of all States not yet party to the relevant instruments, asking them to ratify the instruments without delay.

To date, 137 countries have acceded the 1951 Convention or its 1967 Protocol. Forty-five countries have ratified the 1954 Convention relating to the status of stateless persons, while only 19 have ratified the 1961 Convention on the reduction of statelessness.More Information