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Kyrgyzstan’s Asylum System Further Eroded

Kyrgyzstan’s Asylum System Further Eroded As Five Uzbeks Disappear, Warns Un Agency

The United Nations refugee agency said it was gravely concerned over the fate of five Uzbek asylum-seekers who have “disappeared” in recent weeks from southern Kyrgyzstan, warning this latest incident shows an erosion of the Kyrgyz asylum system as it follows the expulsion earlier this month of several Uzbeks back to their homeland.

The five, who were registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Kyrgyz migration authorities, were among hundreds of Uzbeks who fled their country in the aftermath of the killings in Andijan in May last year, and the agency said at least two may now be back in Uzbekistan.

“In two separate incidents on August 16 and 17, two of the asylum-seekers were seen being forced into private cars by unknown men wearing civilian clothes who then drove them away to unknown destinations,” UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told reporters in Geneva.

“We have received credible information that at least two of the abducted asylum-seekers are currently in police custody in Andijan, Uzbekistan… UNHCR regrets the obvious erosion of the Kyrgyz asylum system, which until recently was an exemplary one in Central Asia.”

All five Uzbeks went missing from the city of Osh but Ms. Pagonis said such “repeated disappearances” also raise serious concerns regarding the security of asylum-seekers in the Jalalabad region of Kyrgyzstan.

Separately, UNHCR says it still has no news about the group of four Uzbek refugees and one asylum-seeker who were sent back to their homeland on 9 August. The agency has said it fears for their safety and pointed out that the forced return violated the 1951 Refugee Convention that Kyrgyzstan has ratified.

Ms. Pagonis also said UNHCR was “very concerned” over repeated incidents involving Kyrgyz police and migration personnel harassing asylum-seekers during document checks, including threats of forcible return to Uzbekistan, adding the situation has not improved despite meetings with the relevant authorities.

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