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High Commissioner mission to Central Asia

Briefing notes

High Commissioner mission to Central Asia

9 November 2007

High Commissioner António Guterres is travelling to Central Asia this weekend on a five-day visit, his first to the region as UNHCR chief.

From November 11-13, Mr. Guterres will be in the Kyrgyz Republic to open the first refugee reception centre in Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan hosts several hundred refugees and asylum seekers from Afghanistan, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The High Commissioner is expected to meet President Kurmanbek Bakiev to thank the government for naturalising some 9,000 refugees from Tajikistan.

Mr. Guterres will be in Kazakhstan from November 13-15, when he plans to meet President Nursultan Nazarbayev and to discuss the drafting of national refugee legislation. There are some 3,700 Chechens from the Russian Federation and several hundred people from Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and China who are of concern to UNHCR in the country.

The High Commissioner plans to visit UNHCR's operations in Tajikistan and Turkmenistan in spring 2008. The agency's office in Uzbekistan was closed by the government in April 2006, but UNHCR continues to seek solutions for some 1,200 refugees, mostly from Afghanistan, through the UN Development Programme.

Four of five Central Asian states have signed the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan have enacted national refugee laws, while Kazakhstan is currently drafting its own.

UNHCR's work in Central Asia is focused on strengthening protection and national asylum systems to bring them in line with international standards. It also is working to ascertain the scope of statelessness in the region - estimated to affect some 30,000 people - and to develop strategies to address the problem.