Kyrgyzstan: UNHCR calls for better return conditions, appeals for more funds before winter

Briefing Notes, 27 July 2010

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 27 July 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is calling on local and central authorities in Kyrgyzstan to improve the situation and the return conditions for some 75,000 remaining internally displaced people (IDPs) who were uprooted by the violence in southern Kyrgyzstan during June.

UNHCR is appealing today for US$ 23 million, part of the UN Kyrgyzstan flash appeal of US$ 96.4 million, which is being launched today in Bishkek. These funds are urgently needed for emergency shelter and protection projects in southern Kyrgyzstan. Fresh funds will allow us to continue our protection, legal and humanitarian assistance to the affected population until the end of the year. These activities include restoration of important identification, civil status and property documents as well as free legal counseling.

Our teams in Osh and Jalalabad meet and visit IDPs in southern Kyrgyzstan on a daily basis and monitor their situation. Many of the displaced report to UNHCR frequent instances of detention and harassment. They also speak of difficulties in accessing basic medical services, and of conditions of no electricity and poor waste management. Similar messages are communicated to us through our free telephone help lines, which we man 24-hours a day, as well as through our local partners.

Together with our partners we continue to counsel people on their rights as well as on procedures for restoring lost or destroyed personal documentation. UNHCR also assists Kyrgyz authorities to enhance its capacity to issue new documents.

We are encouraged by recent government decisions to establish mobile teams to visit and assist the communities which were affected by June violence and to waive the fee for issuing temporary ID cards.

Reconstruction of housing and emergency shelter is another key issue of concern to UNHCR. Many returnees and IDPs have shown reservations about the new plans of local authorities to construct multi-storey buildings to accommodate those who have lost houses, replacing the old traditional neighbourhoods. Most of the people want to restore what they have lost a family home respecting their customs and lifestyle. Most importantly, the displaced are asking for urgent shelter assistance to rebuild their homes before winter.

UNHCR advocates for a stable and sustainable return. We welcome the recent statement of the President Rosa Otunbaeva calling for a possibility for the affected population to opt for either a new apartment or for the reconstruction of their destroyed home.

The funds requested in the appeal will also cover the humanitarian needs of some 75,000 IDPs during the forthcoming winter. Furthermore, the shelter cluster, coordinated by UNHCR, has developed an emergency shelter strategy in consultation with the authorities which includes the construction of solid warm shelter for up to 2,000 most vulnerable households in Osh and Jalal'Abad. However, emergency shelter assistance for the forthcoming winter is not an alternative for the long term reconstruction and rehabilitation.

Our main challenge for the shelter programme is the short time frame for implementation before the onset of the winter season in Kyrgyzstan in less than three months. Winters are harsh in this part of the world with temperatures dropping to minus 25 degrees Celsius.