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UNHCR completes Kyrgyzstan shelter programme in time for winter

News Stories, 3 December 2010

© UNHCR/M.Erjigitov
One of the new homes in southern Kyrgyzstan takes shape.

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan, December 3 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency has wrapped up its emergency shelter programme in southern Kyrgyzstan after providing temporary homes for the more than 13,400 people whose houses were damaged or destroyed during June's violence there.

Getting people into proper accommodation before winter has been an important goal. June's violence cost the lives of more than 400 people and displaced 375,000 others, many of them briefly into neighbouring Uzbekistan.

"Now that this emergency shelter work is completed, our focus will shift to reconciliation, in particular promoting rule of law and human rights. The situation in this part of Kyrgyzstan remains fragile," a UNHCR spokesman said.

In all, some 2,000 homes have been repaired or rebuilt over the past 100 days, of which almost 1,700 were completely destroyed. Early completion of this programme has been important and owes much to the commitment and coordination between UNHCR and its partners as well as the support of the Kyrgyz authorities.

UNHCR itself constructed four out of every five of these transitional homes. With shelters built and people now moved in, the refugee agency will continue helping with the restoration of documents and housing, land and property rights.

The response from the beneficiaries has been enthusiastic. With winter starting, nighttime temperatures in southern Kyrgyzstan are around freezing and forecast to drop to minus 10 degrees Celsius over the next few days. "People have told us they did not expect to have a roof over their heads before winter, and only a few months ago there was talk of people seeking to leave the country," the UNHCR spokesman said.

All of the transitional homes are warm and seismically safe. They have been built on the foundations of destroyed properties. Constructing emergency transitional shelters has cost UNHCR more than US$9 million, from a total budget in Kyrgyzstan for 2010 of US$23 million.

Needs for 2011 are estimated at US$11.4 million. Most of the funds will go towards ensuring better access to rights, basic and essential services, the replacing of personal documents and promoting livelihoods.

By Natalia Prokopchuk in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan




UNHCR country pages

A Place to Call Home: The Situation of Stateless Persons in the Kyrgyz Republic

Findings of surveys commissioned by UNHCR, Bishkek 2009.

Statelessness in Kyrgyzstan

Two decades after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, thousands of people in former Soviet republics like Kyrgyzstan are still facing problems with citizenship. UNHCR has identified more than 20,000 stateless people in the Central Asian nation. These people are not considered as nationals under the laws of any country. While many in principle fall under the Kyrgyz citizenship law, they have not been confirmed as nationals under the existing procedures.

Most of the stateless people in Kyrgyzstan have lived there for many years, have close family links in the country and are culturally and socially well-integrated. But because they lack citizenship documents, these folk are often unable to do the things that most people take for granted, including registering a marriage or the birth of a child, travelling within Kyrgyzstan and overseas, receiving pensions or social allowances or owning property. The stateless are more vulnerable to economic hardship, prone to higher unemployment and do not enjoy full access to education and medical services.

Since independence in 1991, Kyrgyzstan has taken many positive steps to reduce and prevent statelessness. And UNHCR, under its statelessness mandate, has been assisting the country by providing advice on legislation and practices as well as giving technical assistance to those charged with solving citizenship problems. The refugee agency's NGO partners provide legal counselling to stateless people and assist them in their applications for citizenship.

However, statelessness in Kyrgyzstan is complex and thousands of people, mainly women and children, still face legal, administrative and financial hurdles when seeking to confirm or acquire citizenship. In 2009, with the encouragement of UNHCR, the government adopted a national action plan to prevent and reduce statelessness. In 2011, the refugee agency will help revise the plan and take concrete steps to implement it. A concerted effort by all stakeholders is needed so that statelessness does not become a lingering problem for future generations.

Statelessness in Kyrgyzstan

The crisis in Kyrgyzstan

UNHCR was monitoring the returns of refugees and other displaced people to southern Kyrgyzstan as tens of thousands of people headed back to their communities. Violent clashes in Osh and other cities in southern Kyrgyzstan earlier this month had sent an estimated 300,000 fleeing to the countryside, while 100,000 had fled across the border into Uzbekistan.

Days after the attacks, Kyrgyz authorities were still trying to restore law and order in the south, where they reported that some 180 people were killed and 1,900 injured. Many of the internally displaced have been staying with host families with many also sleeping rough. In Uzbekistan, authorities reported more than 50 sites hosting refugees in the border provinces of Andijan, Ferghana and Namangan. Some refugees were staying in schools and other public buildings.

UNHCR has provided more than 300 tonnes of emergency assistance in a series of relief flights over the past week, working with the concerned governments and local partners in sometimes hazardous conditions.

The crisis in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan: One Year OnPlay video

Kyrgyzstan: One Year On

A year ago, when violence erupted in Kyrgyzstan, Saliya and her family hid in their basement for three days as fighting raged overhead. Life is slowly returning to normal today.
Kyrgyzstan: The Need to RebuildPlay video

Kyrgyzstan: The Need to Rebuild

Thousands of displaced people in the town of Osh are struggling to rebuild their homes and their lives.
Kyrgzstan: On the MovePlay video

Kyrgzstan: On the Move

Violence in early June in southern Kyrgyzstan forced some 400,000 people to flee their homes. In the Jalal-Abad region, some discuss their experiences.