CIS Conference ends, but charts way ahead for flexible framework on migration, asylum

News Stories, 11 October 2005

© UNHCR/A.Hollmann
Once stateless, these young Crimean Tatars have now returned to Oktyabrskoe in southern Ukraine, where they are attending a national school.

GENEVA, October 11 (UNHCR) The concluding meeting on Monday of the decade-long CIS Conference created to deal with population upheavals after the break-up of the Soviet Union, ended by charting the way forward for a new flexible framework for Euro-Asian cooperation on migration, asylum and displacement issues.

"Much has been achieved as a result of this remarkable ten-year multilateral effort", UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, said in his closing speech. "Compared to the situation that existed in the mid-1990s, all the States involved are certainly much better placed to manage displacement and migration problems in a humane and effective manner consistent with international norms."

However, while certain situations have been resolved, challenges continue to confront the region.

"Gaps still remain, especially when it comes to implementation, and asylum and protection are in some cases fragile or absent. New challenges have appeared, especially those related to the increased international concern with security and combating terrorism, border management, the growth of movements including migrants and asylum-seekers into and across the region, trafficking in persons and xenophobia", said the High Commissioner.

In 1991, when the Soviet Union broke up, the total number of people estimated living outside their 'home' republics or autonomous regions was somewhere between 54 and 65 million, or one-fifth of the total population. Many of these people were faced with a very uncertain future.

Faced with the huge task of protecting and assisting millions of refugees, internally displaced persons, formerly deported people, stateless persons, involuntary resettlers and ecological and irregular migrants, the fledgling post-Soviet states turned to the international community for advice and help.

In 1996, the Geneva Regional Conference on Refugees, Displaced Persons, Migration and Asylum Issues in the CIS (also known as the CIS Conference) was set up by UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the OSCE to address the unique and highly complex mix of problems facing refugees, and various other types of displaced people in the CIS.

In a final statement, participants at the Conference including CIS states, neighbouring and interested countries, international organisations and NGOs agreed to establish arrangements to form a flexible framework for cooperation.

They recognized that important issues, such as the implementation of a fair and effective asylum system involving access to the territory, adequate reception facilities, the implementation of a refugee status determination process and the creation of integration possibilities, still needed to be addressed.

UNHCR and other international organizations were asked to continue providing technical assistance for capacity-building of relevant administrative bodies and national court systems, as well as training border guards, national refugee status determination agencies and law enforcement staff on asylum procedure.

It was also agreed to strengthen co-operation among the concerned states and with international agencies in relation to the registration and documentation of refugees and asylum seekers. The importance of providing refugees including children with adequate documentation was also recognised.

States also pledged to adopt or revise citizenship legislation on avoiding and reducing statelessness as a consequence of state succession and to set up mechanisms enabling persons to establish their nationality.

The concluding statement emphasized the need to speed up progress towards a comprehensive and durable solution to the problems still faced by remaining vulnerable groups of formerly deported peoples.

"It is up to all of us now to ensure that we build on what has been achieved and to jointly chart the way forward in a spirit of understanding and cooperation the hallmark, as we can now say, of the exemplary CIS Conference process," Guterres said.