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2014 UNHCR regional operations profile - Central Asia

| Overview |

Working environment

Central Asia continues to progress towards political and socio-economic stability. Although all of the Central Asian States, with the exception of Uzbekistan, have acceded to the 1951 Refugee Convention and adopted national refugee laws, the level of refugee protection does not always comply with international standards.

With major political and security changes due in Afghanistan in 2014, there is a potential risk of mixed migratory flows into Central Asian States, and of new refugee movements within the region. In light of these possibilities, Central Asian Governments have recognized the importance of broader regional cooperation on refugee issues.

UNHCR will pursue its advocacy efforts and action for improvements to national asylum systems. The Office assists States with emergency preparedness. It also promotes accession to the Statelessness Conventions while working with Governments to prevent and resolve cases of statelessness and to develop national procedures to manage mixed migratory flows within Central Asia.

Following the Second Ministerial Conference on Refugee Protection and International Migration in June 2013 in Almaty, Kazakhstan, UNHCR will continue to support the Almaty Process, a regional cooperation framework for managing migration issues.

Elsewhere in the region, the Government of Turkmenistan has promulgated a new nationality law incorporating many recommendations by UNHCR, including the right of refugees to apply for naturalization. The Government has also agreed to waive citizenship fees for stateless people registered jointly by the authorities and UNHCR in 2011.

In Kyrgyzstan, a Government restructuring at the beginning of 2013 saw the ministry with responsibility for refugee affairs renamed as the Ministry of Labour, Migration and Youth. In March 2013, the citizenship law was amended to simplify naturalization procedures for foreign spouses of Kyrgyz citizens, helping to reduce the risk of becoming stateless for these spouses. Three years after the June 2010 ethnic clashes in South Kyrgyzstan, UNHCR continues to help the Government to reintegrate some 375,000 people affected by the conflict.

In Kazakhstan, UNHCR maintains close links with the Government through an inter-ministerial working group on asylum. The working group has helped to strengthen the capacity of national officials dealing with refugees and asylum-seekers, of whom Kazakhstan hosts some 600. In addition, there are approximately 7,300 officially registered stateless people in the country. Preparations were made in 2013 for a comprehensive registration of stateless people in 2014.

Tajikistan hosts some 4,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, mostly of Afghan origin. They cannot choose their place of residence, as they are not allowed to live in the major cities, including Dushanbe. In 2013, UNHCR has donated equipment and helped introduce new software that provided the Government with a modern refugee registration system. The organization has also helped the Government to revise its citizenship law and participated in a working group that has amended the national refugee law. Both laws are now awaiting approval by Parliament.

Even though Uzbekistan has no legal or administrative framework on refugees and asylum, its policies since the early 1990s have been tolerant towards registered refugees holding UN certificates. However, incidents of deportation, arbitrary detention and harassment of refugees by law enforcement agencies have occurred. Uzbekistan has not acceded to any international instrument on statelessness. National legislation defines stateless people and regulates all matters related to their stay in the country, including the issuance of identity and travel documents. UNHCR has not had a presence in Uzbekistan since 2006, and currently assists 142 refugees in the country, predominantly of Afghan origin, through UNDP.

| Response |


UNHCR's main strategies in Central Asia are to:

  • protect refugees and asylum-seekers;

  • reduce and prevent statelessness while advocating for Governments in the subregion to accede to the Statelessness Conventions;

  • prepare an optimal response capacity to deal with emergencies, especially a possible influx of refugees from Afghanistan in 2014;

  • preserve asylum space within mixed migratory flows, specifically through continued support to the Almaty Process; and

  • ensure that refugee status determination (RSD) procedures comply with international standards, while also seeking durable solutions and promoting the self-reliance of refugees.


Refugee laws in Central Asia are not fully consistent with international standards. Furthermore, States' preoccupations with perceived cross-border threats and national security have had a negative impact on asylum policies and the protection of refugees. UNHCR foresees that political reform and development are prerequisites for a favourable protection environment and the sustainable reintegration of people of concern in the region.

| Implementation |


In Kazakhstan, UNHCR will work with the Government to ensure the procedural integrity of the State asylum system. The Office is also liaising with the Government and lawmakers on a revision of asylum-related legislation that is not in conformity with international standards, particularly with regard to social services and naturalization. Advocacy for Kazakhstan's accession to the Statelessness Conventions will continue, as will efforts to devise a joint action plan to register and protect stateless people.

In view of the evolving security situation in Afghanistan, Tajikistan could become a destination for new waves of asylum-seekers. UNHCR will give priority to improving emergency preparedness through joint planning with the Tajik Government and other relevant actors. The recently completed countrywide verification exercise of urban refugees in Tajikistan has contributed to a better understanding of the profile and needs of the population of concern: this will assist in the design and the implementation of protection and durable-solutions programmes.

Turkmenistan is at the forefront of efforts to address statelessness in the Central Asian region by depositing the instrument of accession on 29 August 2012, and became the 46th State Party to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. UNHCR will help the Government to bring its nationality legislation in line with the Statelessness Conventions. Special efforts will be made to secure access to asylum procedures and protection against refoulement for all people of concern, while government partners will be assisted to develop their emergency preparedness and response capacity.

In 2014 and 2015, UNHCR in Kyrgyzstan will pursue the sustainable reintegration of those who were displaced following the June 2010 ethnic violence. At the same time, it will continue to gradually disengage from assisting internally displaced people (IDPs) through the implementation of projects designed as part of the Peace Priority Plan submitted to the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO). Kyrgyzstan has been designated as a pilot country for the UN Secretary-General's Policy Committee Decision on Durable Solutions. This has provided an additional platform for UNHCR to strengthen its advocacy for the sustainable reintegration of conflict-affected populations and the engagement of PBSO in Kyrgyzstan.

In Uzbekistan, UNHCR will continue to provide services for refugees through UNDP. A senior UNHCR liaison officer will be deployed to Tashkent to discuss with the Government the reopening of the UNHCR office in the country, while advocacy with the Uzbek Government at the regional and bureau levels will continue.

| Financial information |

When ethnic violence in June 2010 led to mass displacement in southern Kyrgyzstan, UNHCR reopened and strengthened its field offices in Osh and Jalalabad. As a result, the budgetary requirements for Central Asia increased dramatically. Emergency interventions continued through the first half of 2011 and were replaced by efforts in aid of reconciliation and peacebuilding in 2012 and 2013. The budget requirements for 2014 and 2015 will be scaled down, with the 2014 budget for Central Asia set at USD 16.5 million, covering needs in refugee and stateless programmes as well as IDP projects.

UNHCR budgets for Central Asia (USD)
Operation 2013
Revised budget
(as of 30 June 2013)
2014 2015
Total 18,104,248 10,040,097 3,995,748 2,457,167 16,493,012 16,825,579
Kazakhstan Regional Office 7,622,513 4,863,774 2,385,500 90,350 7,339,624 8,520,327
Kyrgyzstan 7,497,298 2,848,575 1,081,575 2,366,817 6,296,968 5,515,522
Tajikistan 1,942,848 1,904,159 93,878 0 1,998,038 2,154,157
Turkmenistan 1,041,589 423,588 434,795 0 858,383 635,574

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2014-2105



Statistical Snapshot*
* As at January 2014
  1. Country or territory of asylum or residence. In the absence of Government estimates, UNHCR has estimated the refugee population in most industrialized countries based on 10 years of asylum-seekers recognition.
  2. Persons recognized as refugees under the 1951 UN Convention/1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention, in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, persons granted a complementary form of protection and those granted temporary protection. It also includes persons in a refugee-like situation whose status has not yet been verified.
  3. Persons whose application for asylum or refugee status is pending at any stage in the procedure.
  4. Refugees who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2013. Source: Country of origin and asylum.
  5. Persons who are displaced within their country and to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance. It also includes persons who are in an IDP-like situation.
  6. IDPs protected/assisted by UNHCR who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2013.
  7. Refers to persons under UNHCR's statelessness mandate.
  8. Persons of concern to UNHCR not included in the previous columns but to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance.
  9. The category of people in a refugee-like situation is descriptive in nature and includes groups of people who are outside their country of origin and who face protection risks similar to those of refugees, but for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained.
The data are generally provided by Governments, based on their own definitions and methods of data collection.
A dash (-) indicates that the value is zero, not available or not applicable.

Source: UNHCR/Governments.
Compiled by: UNHCR, FICSS.
Residing in Kyrgyzstan [1]
Refugees [2] 466
Asylum Seekers [3] 378
Returned Refugees [4] 0
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Stateless Persons [7] 11,425
Various [8] 0
Total Population of Concern 12,269
Originating from Kyrgyzstan [1]
Refugees [2] 2,311
Asylum Seekers [3] 1,287
Returned Refugees [4] 0
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Various [8] 0
Total Population of Concern 3,598
Government Contributions to UNHCR
Contributions since 2000
More info 35,577
As at 2 July 2014
2013 67,014
2012 67,014
2011 0
2010 0
2009 0
2008 0
2007 0
2006 0
2005 0
2004 0
2003 0
2002 0
2001 0
2000 0

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Kyrgyzstan Situation: 2011 Supplementary Budgetary Requirements

Protection and assistance to returnees and internally displaced persons in southern Kyrgyzstan, January 2011.

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

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

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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.