Uzbekistan: UNHCR regrets office closure, alternative arrangements in place for care of refugee caseload
After 13 years, UNHCR yesterday (Monday) closed its office in Uzbekistan on orders of the government, which gave us one month's notice. The move follows a March ultimatum by the Uzbek Ministry of Foreign Affairs for UNHCR to end its work in the country by 17 April. The government said UNHCR had "fully implemented its tasks and there are no evident reasons for its further presence in Uzbekistan."
UNHCR expressed regret over the decision as our work in the country was ongoing and many refugees continued to depend on assistance from us. But we only work in a country by invitation and in support of the government. So in those exceptional situations where we are asked to leave, we leave.
UNHCR staff worked hard over the past 30 days to prepare for the end of our activities in Uzbekistan and to ensure alternative arrangements are in place for those in need of protection. We are pleased that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Tashkent has agreed and will be allowed under an alternative arrangement to continue providing basic care and assistance to some 1,800 refugees, most of whom are Afghans, and assist with voluntary repatriation and resettlement for those refugees for whom alternative solutions have already been arranged and for those who still need solutions.
UNHCR started providing humanitarian assistance to refugees in Uzbekistan soon after establishing our presence in the country in 1993.
Uzbekistan is the only Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) country that is not a party to either the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol. UNHCR has, however, advised the government on the development of national legislation and provided refugee law training to officials.