Kazakhstan: UNHCR concerned for Chinese Uighur asylum seeker

Briefing Notes, 17 November 2006

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 17 November 2006, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is deeply concerned about the fate of a Chinese Uighur asylum seeker in Kazakhstan who disappeared in Almaty on October 23 and has not been seen or heard of since. The asylum seeker had been detained in June by Kazakh authorities in Almaty on alleged criminal charges. Following his detention, the asylum seeker's wife immediately filed an application with UNHCR seeking refugee status for her husband and protection against deportation, claiming his innocence.

UNHCR approached the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on June 28 seeking access to the asylum seeker to conduct a refugee status determination interview. The MFA assured UNHCR that access would be granted as soon as the criminal investigation was over. The investigation lasted four months, but on October 23 the District court in Almaty dismissed all criminal charges against the asylum seeker and as result he was released conditionally. Since then the family has not seen or heard of him.

UNHCR immediately requested the government to investigate the circumstances of his disappearance and was assured by the Foreign Minister that the government would thoroughly look into the matter. UNHCR, however, fears that the asylum seeker might have been deported. We therefore call on the government of the Republic of Kazakhstan to expedite the investigation related to the disappearance.

UNHCR wishes to remind the government of Kazakhstan of its obligations under the 1951 Convention, in particular of the importance of the principle of non-refoulement. UNHCR assures the government of Kazakhstan of its continuing assistance and stands ready to provide any support in this case.