Tajikistan: first repatriation from Turkmenistan since March

Briefing Notes, 31 October 2000

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Kris Janowski to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 31 October 2000, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR today repatriated 71 Tajik refugees from Turkmenistan, bringing the total number of organised returns to 4,859 since the programme started in January 1998. The 71 returnees took a train Monday from Turkmenabad and Mary, 500 km and 250 km east of the Turkmenistan capital of Ashgabat, where they then boarded a plane this morning for Dushanbe in Tajikistan.

Today's repatriation from Turkmenistan was the first since the programme was suspended in March over problems of security. Most of the previous returnees went back to Tajikistan by train through Uzbekistan. Another 14,000 Tajik refugees have integrated in Turkmenistan, but individuals seek assistance from UNHCR to return from time to time. Even before the return programme began, UNHCR had organised the return of 500 Tajiks in 1996 and 1997.

Organised mass repatriation followed the signing of a peace accord in Tajikistan in June 1997, ending a civil conflict that began in 1992. Helping UNHCR implement the repatriation programme were the International Organisation for Migration and the National Red Crescent Society of Turkmenistan. UNHCR has expressed gratitude to the government of Turkmenistan for its co-operation in the programme and for facilitating the stay of the refugees.

More than 40,000 Tajiks who fled to neighbouring countries during the conflict have repatriated to Tajikistan since the peace accord, including an estimated 20,000 who went back on their own from Afghanistan. Of the total, UNHCR organised the return of 18,791, including 10,415 from Afghanistan, 3,012 from Kyrgyzstan, 13 from Uzbekistan and 492 from Kazakhstan.