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Fears for Safety of Repatriated Uzbek Refugees

UN Agency Fears for the Safety of Uzbek Refugees After Kyrgyzstan Sends Them Back

New York, Aug 9 2006 6:00PM

Expressing shock at Kyrgyzstan’s extradition of four Uzbek refugees and one asylum seeker back to Uzbekistan, the United Nations refugee agency said today it feared for their safety, stressed that the forced return violated the 1951 Refugee Convention and called on the Uzbek authorities to grant humanitarian access to the deportees.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had already found resettlement places for the four who had fled to Kyrgyzstan immediately after violence in the Uzbek city of Andijan in May 2005 and were part of a group of some 500 asylum seekers, all of whom were later recognized as refugees. Uzbekistan had been seeking their extradition.

“We fear for their safety. This refoulement [forced return] is an extremely serious violation of the 1951 Refugee Convention – which Kyrgyzstan has ratified – under which no refugees should be forcibly returned to their country of origin,” said Commissioner António Guterres.

“What is even more disturbing is that we had secured resettlement places in different countries for the four refugees months ago and had been asking the Kyrgyz authorities to allow us to transfer them.” The Uzbeks were deported by Kyrgyz authorities, through the Dostuk border crossing, to neighbouring Uzbekistan on Wednesday morning.

In mid-June, the Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan upheld a department of migration service decision not to grant refugee status to the four while the fifth Uzbek, who was arrested in October 2005 after a request from Uzbekistan, still had his asylum appeal claim pending.

“Since the beginning of these proceedings over the four refugees we have repeatedly asked the Kyrgyz authorities to maintain their commitment to their international obligations. This grave breach is a huge disappointment as the deportees’ lives may be at stake. Kyrgyzstan has failed to protect these refugees,” said Mr. Guterres.

“This is an even greater disappointment given everything Kyrgyzstan has done for Uzbek refugees in the past,” he added.

UNHCR left Uzbekistan in mid-April after a government request in March asked the agency to end its work in the country within one month.

Shortly after last year’s violence in Andijan, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour expressed fears that asylum-seekers and refugees forced to return to Uzbekistan “may face an imminent risk of grave human rights violations, including torture and extra-judicial and summary executions.”


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