Uzbek Asylum Seekers Need Emergency Resettlement
Uzbek Asylum Seekers In Kyrgyzstan Need Emergency Resettlement – UN Refugee Agency
New York, Jul 1 2005
Concerned that Kyrgyz authorities may not withstand the pressure they are under by the Government of Uzbekistan to extradite some 450 Uzbek asylum seekers, the United Nations refugee agency today held crisis talks in Geneva with traditional resettlement countries in an urgent effort to find and emergency safe haven.
"I have been to Sasyk camp [where most of the refugees are currently being housed near Jalalabad, in Western Kyrgyzstan], I have talked to the people there," UN Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees Kamel Morjane told government representatives at an emergency meeting of eight traditional resettlement countries today in Geneva.
"From what I have been able to see, they are people like you and me, who have left their country, and often their family, because they were scared. They are still scared, perhaps even more today. There is little doubt what will happen to them if they are sent back to Uzbekistan. The international community cannot let this happen," Mr. Morjane told representatives of Australia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Several countries are seriously considering the status of the asylum seekers, who had fled the recent military crackdown in their country to take shelter in a rough camp in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, UNHCR says. Despite official guarantees given to the UN by the acting President of Kyrgyzstan of temporary protection to the initial group of more than 500, the authorities deported four refugees to Uzbekistan on 9 June.
Mr. Morjane noted today that while the Kyrgyz government has been generous in receiving the Uzbeks, it is nonetheless clear that the asylum climate there is under intense pressure. As such, emergency resettlement is needed to protect the group.
Expedited resettlement procedures are especially urgent for 29 of the asylum seekers facing the threat of deportation. Along with the Kyrgyz authorities, three UNHCR lawyers have been conducting accelerated status determination for the 29, but it is not clear if the Kyrgyz authorities would be willing to release them for resettlement.
Mr. Morjane told the officials at today's meeting that he had been shocked by the precarious situation when he visited the camp earlier this week. The Uzbek government has demanded that more than 100 of them be returned.
He said that if the situation deteriorated further, a humanitarian evacuation might have to be organized for the entire group. Given the lack of an independent investigation into the May 13 events in Kyrgyz town of Andijan that led to their flight, UNHCR considers that the Uzbek asylum seekers deserve the benefit of the doubt, and should be given international protection.