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Kyrgyzstan: continuing concerns over Uzbeks border camp

Briefing notes

Kyrgyzstan: continuing concerns over Uzbeks border camp

24 May 2005

We are still concerned about the safety and well-being of a group of 540 Uzbeks, including 91 women and children, who arrived in Kyrgyzstan ten days ago in the aftermath of the military crackdown on Andijan.

The group is staying at Barash camp, on the bank of the river that marks the border between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Such close proximity to a border is always a concern for UNHCR, and also there is no water or sanitation at the camp. We have a three person emergency team in the area closely monitoring the situation at the camp and the border. The refugee agency gave out emergency relief items last week, and another distribution by us and non-governmental organisations is due to take place very soon. On Sunday, two UNHCR trucks from Dushanbe in Tajikistan arrived in Osh after crossing one of the highest mountain passes in the world, carrying 160 tents, over 1,000 blankets, 500 kitchen sets and emergency health kits.

We are asking the Kyrgyz authorities for permission to move the asylum-seekers to a site further away from the border. Meanwhile, the government has given us assurances that asylum seekers would not be forced back to Uzbekistan against their will. All the asylum-seekers who registered at Barash are still at the camp.

We want to stress again that we very much welcome the prompt action taken by the Kyrgyz government to help the asylum seekers. As we said last week, this is in keeping with Kyrgyzstan's traditional support for international protection and UNHCR's work. The country was one of the first in the region to become a signatory of the 1951 Refugee Convention and must be commended for its commitment to the rights of asylum-seekers.

Finally, UNHCR also reiterates its call for the border between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan to be kept open on both sides.