Uzbeks: UNHCR praises Kyrgyz authorities, hopes for quick resettlement for Uzbeks in Romania

Briefing Notes, 2 August 2005

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 2 August 2005, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

A fourteen-strong UNHCR team has arrived in Romania over the last few days to help colleagues on the ground and the national authorities with resettlement procedures for 439 Uzbek refugees who arrived last Friday from Kyrgyzstan. The refugees, including 74 women and 23 children, are staying in a reception centre in Timisoara, where they have received hot meals, and items such as soap, shampoo, towels and bed-linen, as well as medical attention.

The UNHCR team is working closely with countries who have said that they will accept the refugees for permanent resettlement. Representatives of a number of these countries are in Romania to conduct resettlement interviews with the refugees with the help of our staff. The aim is to be as thorough and quick as possible in order to lessen the wait for the refugees, who have already undergone a considerable ordeal, and to respect the commitment made to Romania that the group's stay would be temporary and as short as possible.

The Uzbeks fled to Kyrgyzstan in the immediate aftermath of the violent events in Andijan on 12 and 13 May. The decision to launch the humanitarian transfer was taken after several weeks of intense pressure during which some refugees and asylum seekers were detained and four were deported to Uzbekistan.

However, 15 Uzbek refugees and asylum seekers, who were jailed in the western Kyrgyz city of Osh following an extradition request from Uzbekistan, remain in detention. We are negotiating with the Kyrgyz authorities for their release and remain extremely concerned about their fate.

We praise the Kyrgyz authorities for their exemplary cooperation in last week's transfer operation and urge them not to extradite any of the remaining Uzbeks, who are all people of concern to UNHCR. We strongly reiterate that such a move would be contrary to the 1951 Refugee Convention, to which Kyrgyzstan has acceded, and to Kyrgyz national law.