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UNHCR airlifts Uzbek refugees to Kyrgyz capital

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UNHCR airlifts Uzbek refugees to Kyrgyz capital

27 July 2005

Wednesday 27 July 2005

GENEVA - The UN refugee agency said on Wednesday that it has started airlifting 455 Uzbek refugees from Jalal-Abad and Osh in western Kyrgyzstan to the capital Bishkek, pending a further humanitarian transfer.

UNHCR has been advocating for a transfer and emergency resettlement of this group over concerns for their safety and the sensitive asylum climate in Kyrgyzstan. UNHCR is currently discussing the next stage of the transfer from Bishkek with various countries, but plans are still being finalised.

The 12-flight transfer to Bishkek by two chartered Yak-40s is expected to continue throughout Wednesday and Thursday ferrying 426 refugees who have been staying in Sasik camp and an additional 29 Uzbeks who have been in detention in Osh. The refugees will stay at a temporary location in Bishkek until details of their transfer from Kyrgyzstan have been finalised.

The refugees fled to Kyrgyzstan following the 12/13 May events in Andijan in Uzbekistan. Over the past weeks UNHCR has worked closely with the Kyrgyz authorities conducting refugee status determination for the group.

A team of UNHCR legal experts has concluded that 452 of the Uzbeks being transferred are considered refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention, while three who are pending status determination are of concern to UNHCR. All are in need of international protection. It would be a violation of the 1951 Refugee Convention, to which Kyrgyzstan has acceded, and of Kyrgyz national law, to send back refugees to territories where their life or freedom would be threatened.