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New Kyrgyz rules could violate refugee convention

New Kyrgyz rules could violate refugee convention, UN agency says

Amendments to Kyrgyzstan’s refugee law could violate the 1951 Refugee Convention, which the Central Asian country has ratified, if they deny access of illegal foreigners to refugee status determination procedures, the relevant United Nations agency said today.

The amendments were adopted without taking into account comments by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on various aspects of the changes despite ongoing discussions since last year, agency spokesman Ron Redmond told a news briefing in Geneva.

He cited specifically a new ‘asylum seeker’ definition, which does not include foreigners who stay in the country illegally and which therefore could breach the Convention if it denied status determination procedures.

Another important amendment concerns the freedom of movement of asylum seekers, who under the new rules will no longer able to choose their place of residence in the country, Mr. Redmond noted. 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,” Mr. Redmond said. “Our office is ready to work with the Kyrgyz government in order to bring the national legislation closer to international refugee protection standards.”

At the same time he reiterated UNHCR’s appreciation for the Kyrgyz Government’s commitment to asylum principles, noting that the country was one of the first regional signatories of the 1951 Convention.

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