Large numbers of refugees returning to Kyrgyzstan need humanitarian aid

Briefing Notes, 25 June 2010

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 25 June 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Amid mass returns from Uzbekistan to Kyrgyzstan, UNHCR field officers have been visiting groups of returning refugees and displaced people near Osh and Jalalabad. According to the Kyrgyz authorities 70,000 refugees have returned so far. At the same time internally displaced persons (IDPs) are also returning to their places of origin.

Both refugees and IDPs have expressed to us mixed feelings about going home. Although they want to be reunited with their families, many are worried for their safety and about going back to destroyed, damaged or looted homes. We are concerned about the voluntary nature of returns in some cases. UNHCR's view is that where people are returning, they should be able to do so on an informed basis and in conditions of safety, voluntariness, and sustainability.

Another concern is that refugees may be returning into situations of further displacement in light of the fact that many homes have been destroyed or badly damaged. We are seeing people moving in with families in their former neighbourhoods. Conditions are crowded and there is an urgent need to further increase assistance.

Our team in Osh has been delivering relief supplies this morning. They report a generally calm situation, some traffic on the streets and smaller markets open, but also significant destruction

Currently, we have four more relief flights scheduled for this weekend into Osh. Each will bring some 40 tonnes of urgently needed tents, blankets, plastic sheeting, kitchen utensils and other non-food relief items.