Turkmenistan: First ever registration of all refugees completed

Briefing Notes, 18 March 2005

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 18 March 2005, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR and the government of Turkmenistan have completed the first ever registration of all refugees in Turkmenistan. The exercise began in October 2004, and was finalised at the end of February. Some 11,000 ethnic Turkmen who had arrived from Tajikistan and more than 500 ethnic Turkmen from Afghanistan were recorded.

The exercise will now lead to negotiations with the government of the Central Asian nation on finding a durable solution for the registered population. It is a major step toward the resolution of a refugee situation created by the conflicts in nearby Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The majority of the ethnic Turkmen fled to Turkmenistan from Tajikistan between 1992 and 1997 to escape a civil war that broke out in the aftermath of the breakup of the Soviet Union. A number of other ethnic Turkmen had arrived earlier from Afghanistan and were granted residence permits in Turkmenistan in 1994.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and ensuing civil wars and ethnic conflicts created a very complex refugee picture in the five Central Asian countries. UNHCR's engagement in the region began in Tajikistan in 1993 as an emergency response to help more than 600,000 people displaced by the civil war. Within a few years, we had expanded to Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

Following a number of positive developments for refugees in Tajikistan, UNHCR announced last week its intent to consider declaring the cessation of refugee status for displaced Tajiks. UNHCR will evaluate the situation over the next 6-months in consultation with host governments and the Government of Tajikistan, to assess whether conditions remain in place to declare cessation towards the end of 2005 or the beginning of 2006.

The refugee agency considers invoking a cessation clause in cases where the circumstances in which refugee status had been granted have ceased to exist. One important condition is that the implementation of a cessation clause should not result in persons residing in a host state being left with an uncertain status.

There are over 50,000 Tajik refugees in Central Asia, 40,000 of them in Uzbekistan.