United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1997 - Tajikistan, 1 January 1997, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8bb40.html [accessed 29 May 2017]
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Continued tensions associated with Tajikistan's 1992 civil war between the Moscow-backed government and Islamic opposition groups resulted in renewed fighting in the Gharm Valley and Tavildara regions in 1996. The fighting, characterized by indiscriminate use of artillery by government forces and other serious human rights abuses by both government and opposition forces, newly displaced more than 34,000 persons (no information was available on how many newly displaced persons had returned home by year's end). The new displacement added to nearly 17,000 persons who remained internally displaced as a result of the 1992 civil war. By year's end, 837 persons were recognized as refugees by Tajikistan's refugee department in the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection. The majority of them were from Afghanistan. In addition, the refugee department reported that 1,365 asylum seekers were in Tajikistan at the end of 1996, of whom the overwhelming majority, 1,355, were from Afghanistan. Despite continued fighting in Afghanistan, no large influx of Afghans into Tajikistan occurred during the year. Tajik Refugees At the end of the year, an estimated 18,900 Tajik refugees remained in Afghanistan. Kyrgyzstan's government registered some 16,700 Tajiks, mostly ethnic Kyrgyz, as refugees and reported that there were more than 28,000 additional unregistered Tajiks, many of whom it considered economic migrants. Turkmenistan hosted approximately 20,000 refugees from Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan hosted about 6,000, though in both cases, figures were imprecise. Some 30,000 Tajiks, mostly of Uzbek ethnicity, were living in refugee-like circumstances in Uzbekistan. The Russian Federation reported more than 20,000 new arrivals from Tajikistan in 1996, bringing to more than 200,000 the number of persons from Tajikistan registered either as refugees or forced migrants in the Russian Federation. Tajik Returnees Some 1,765 Tajik refugees repatriated from neighboring countries in 1996, including 1,435 from Afghanistan and 330 from Turkmenistan. Continued fighting, deteriorating economic conditions, and inadequate shelter deterred more Tajik refugees from returning. Others feared for their safety upon return due to numerous reports of abuses against returnees ranging from harassment to murder. In some cases, law enforcement and judicial officials failed to protect returnees, while in others, local and central government officials were active participants in human rights violations. Deterrents to repatriation also existed within Tajik refugee camps in neighboring countries. In May, Human Rights Watch reported that Tajiks living in camps in Afghanistan who were associated with Tajik opposition groups both banned repatriation purportedly out of concern for returnees' safety and circulated warnings about poor conditions for returnees in Tajikistan. The opposition limited UNHCR's access to the refugee camps and refugees' access to UNHCR. This prevented refugees from learning about the repatriation process and receiving complete and accurate information about conditions in Tajikistan. On November 27, armed men associated with the opposition forces beat refugees who had gone to the UNHCR office to try to contact their families in Tajikistan. The armed men then abducted the refugees from the UNHCR office and took them to an unknown location. In December, four other families were abducted while seeking UNHCR repatriation assistance, apparently because they had not received opposition leaders' permission to leave Afghanistan. Political Developments Since the end of Tajikistan's civil war in 1992, periodic fighting has continued, despite the presence of a Commonwealth of Independent States peacekeeping force (largely composed of Russian troops) and United Nations observers. The most recent efforts to restore peace came in December, when the government and opposition agreed to a cease-fire and a framework for national reconciliation. The reconciliation agreement provided for a National Reconciliation Commission that would organize new parliamentary and regional elections, work toward bringing about the return of refugees, and seek to keep the peace. The agreement also called for the conversion of the armed opposition forces into political parties, which would then be permitted to participate in elections.