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Amendments to Kyrgyz refugee law

Briefing notes

Amendments to Kyrgyz refugee law

30 May 2006

Our office in Kyrgyzstan was recently informed that amendments to the 2002 Kyrgyz Law on Refugees were adopted 19 May without taking into account UNHCR's comments on various aspects of the changes, despite ongoing discussions since last year. The amendments include a new 'asylum seeker' definition, which does not include foreigners who stay in the country illegally. If this provision denies access of illegal foreigners to refugee status determination procedures, it could be a violation of the 1951 Refugee Convention, which Kyrgyzstan has ratified.

Another important amendment concerns freedom of movement of asylum seekers, who under the new rules will no longer able to choose their place of residence in the country. Lawmakers explained to UNHCR that this change was intended to avoid spontaneous settlement of asylum seekers in situations of mass arrival.

We have prepared comprehensive comments on our concerns about the new amendments which we will shortly share with the relevant ministries. Our office is ready to work with the Kyrgyz government in order to bring the national legislation closer to international refugee protection standards.

We reiterate our appreciation for the Kyrgyz government's commitment to asylum principles. Kyrgyzstan is one of the first regional signatories of the 1951 Refugee Convention.