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UNHCR urges Kyrgyzstan government not to deport four Uzbek refugees


UNHCR urges Kyrgyzstan government not to deport four Uzbek refugees

After a final court ruling on their case, UNHCR has expressed concern about the fate of four Uzbek refugees arrested last year in western Kyrgyzstan after an extradition request from Uzbekistan. The refugee agency urged the Kyrgyz government not to forcibly return the four to their homeland and said it had found resettlement places overseas for them.
14 June 2006
Western Kyrgyzstan's Sasyk camp, where some 500 Uzbek refugees stayed for nearly two months before being moved to Romania in July last year. UNHCR has expressed concern about four of the refugees, who remain in prison after their arrest last year on an Uzbek extradition request.

GENEVA, June 14 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency said on Wednesday it was extremely concerned about the fate of four Uzbek refugees who are still in detention in Osh, western Kyrgyzstan, nearly a year after they were arrested. Their detention followed an extradition request from the Uzbek government.

On June 13, the Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan upheld the negative decision with regard to the refugee status of the last of the four Uzbek refugees, taken earlier by the Kyrgyz Department of Migration Services. The other three refugees had received negative decisions earlier in the year and the cases appear closed.

"UNHCR reiterates its urgent appeal to the Kyrgyz authorities to refrain from any action aimed at forcibly returning these four refugees to Uzbekistan," the refugee agency said in a press statement released on Wednesday.

UNHCR said it had found resettlement places in different countries for the four and it urged the Kyrgyz government to allow them to either remain in the country or transfer them to UNHCR for immediate resettlement.

The latest decision indicates that all legal proceedings related to the refugee status determination procedures of the four, have been completed. The Uzbeks cannot appeal this decision and are now dependent on a decision on their fate from the Kyrgyz government. UNHCR last year recognised the four Uzbeks as refugees under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. This decision was made after a thorough review of all the circumstances surrounding their cases.

The refugee agency strongly emphasizes the importance of the principle of non-refoulement, under which no refugees should be forcibly returned to their country of origin. The extradition of recognised refugees would be a violation of the 1951 Convention to which Kyrgyzstan is a signatory. It is also against international law.

The four men arrived in Kyrgyzstan in the immediate aftermath of the violent events in Andijan in May 2005. They were part of a group of some 500 asylum seekers, all of whom were subsequently recognised as refugees. The other refugees in that group were evacuated out of Kyrgyzstan by UNHCR in July and September after being accepted for urgent resettlement.