Last Updated: Tuesday, 06 December 2016, 14:53 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Kazakhstan

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 10 June 2002
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Kazakhstan , 10 June 2002, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3d04c153c.html [accessed 6 December 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Kazakhstan hosted an estimated 19,500 refugees and asylum seekers at the end of 2001. The majority (some 12,000) were Chechens from the Russian Federation. Other groups included Tajiks (4,000), Afghans (2,300), and Palestinians (1,150).

In 2001, the Kazakh authorities granted refugee status to 46 applicants and rejected 8. During the year, some 800 Palestinians arrived in Kazakhstan, a small number of whom applied for refugee status, but their cases were denied. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) assisted in the voluntary repatriation of 877 Tajiks. The agency also assisted about 8,000 Chechens, 1,000 Afghans and 235 Tajiks by providing legal counseling and vocational training.

Some 33,000 ethnic Kazakhs reportedly returned to Kazakhstan in 2001. Since the country became independent in 1991, about 215,000 ethnic Kazakhs have returned to Kazakhstan. Only 115,000 of them have received Kazakh citizenship, while the rest remain stateless.

Asylum Procedures

Kazakhstan acceded to the UN Refugee Convention and Protocol in 1999. The Kazakh government's Agency for Migration and Demography (AMD) established a refugee determination and appeal process in April 1998. Although Kazakhstan permits asylum seekers of most nationalities to apply for refugee recognition through the National Status Determination Commission in the AMD, others are barred from the procedures because of their national origin.

Kazakhstan's delicate political relationship with the Russian Federation has led the Kazakh government to apply different procedures to asylum seekers from the Russian Federation. The Ministry of Interior registers asylum seekers from the Russian Federation, granting them de facto refugee status that allows them to remain in Kazakhstan under UNHCR protection until it is safe for them to return home. This special procedure applies to Chechens, who are citizens of the Russian Federation. For similar reasons, Kazakhstan also bars nationals of China from the asylum determination procedure. However, the government does not have procedures in place for asylum seekers from China similar to those for asylum seekers from the Russian Federation.

In recent years, Kazakhstan has received an unknown number of ethnic Uyghur asylum seekers fleeing Chinese government repression of the Uyghur minority. Many Chinese Uyghurs reportedly avoid identification and settle among the local Kazakh Uyghur community. However, according to UNHCR, Uyghurs who feel particularly threatened sometimes seek protection from UNHCR, which has granted some of them refugee status under its mandate. UNHCR seeks resettlement outside the region for Chinese Uyghur refugees who the agency feels cannot remain safely in Kazakhstan.

"Stateless" Kazakhs

Following its independence in 1991, Kazakhstan invited ethnic Kazakhs who had migrated or been forced to leave the country over previous decades to return "home." Although more than 215,000 did so, only about half of them have received Kazakh citizenship. The rest remain stateless. UNHCR, which has a mandate to seek to reduce statelessness, has expressed concern about this population, but has not undertaken activities to try to help these Kazakhs acquire citizenship, citing a lack of funds.

Restrictive Practices

The AMD, assisted by UNHCR, carries out status-determination procedures only in Kazakhstan's former capital, Almaty. Asylum seekers residing in other parts of the country have no access to asylum procedures. Since the status-determination procedure was established in Kazakhstan in 1998, some 940 persons, about 98 percent of whom are Afghans, have been recognized by the government as refugees.

Following the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, about 400 Chechens were detained in Almaty, and were only released after intense negotiations with UNHCR, the Kazakh State Security Council, and other institutions.

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