Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 May 2017, 17:26 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Tajikistan

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 20 June 2001
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Tajikistan , 20 June 2001, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3b31e16a4.html [accessed 25 May 2017]
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.

At the end of 2000, Tajikistan hosted some 12,400 refugees and asylum seekers, nearly all Afghans. Some 44,000 Tajiks were refugees in neighboring countries.

Tajikistan is a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention, and the Tajik Constitution provides for the granting of asylum to refugees. A 1994 refugee law grants refugees the right to work and move freely throughout the country. Nevertheless, for more than two months in late 2000, Tajikistan denied entry to some 10,000 Afghan refugees stranded at its border. The refugees remained at the border at year's end. (See Afghanistan.)

Events Prior to 2000

Following its independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991, Tajikistan became embroiled in a deadly civil war that left 50,000 to 100,000 dead, hastened the exodus of non-Tajik minorities, caused tens of thousands of Tajiks to flee to neighboring countries, and left as much as 85 percent of the country's population living in poverty. The civil war ended in 1997, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) undertook a major effort to help Tajikistan rebuild, ostensibly through programs for refugees and displaced persons returning home.

In 1999, UNHCR helped more than 4,500 Tajiks to repatriate. The agency gave returnees a cash grant equivalent to $20 and a reintegration package. It also rehabilitated houses, schools, and clinics. The World Food Program provided returnees food aid. The Tajik government initiated a program that provided returnees and formerly displaced persons up to $200 (300,000 Tajik rubles) in credit, payable over 20 years.

Events in 2000

According to an August 2000 report on crises in Central Asia by the International Crisis Group, Tajik society is becoming increasingly "lawless." It said, "The peace settlement that ended the bloody civil war is now under threat." There were a number of assassinations of government officials during the year, and fighting broke out in central Tajikistan in September between government forces and an Islamist militia group. Drought-induced food shortages further aggravated Tajikistan's troubles.

A new military offensive launched in August by Afghanistan's ruling Taliban against opposition forces in northern Afghanistan prompted fears in Tajikistan that the country might face a large influx of Afghan refugees. On October 10, UNHCR reported that Tajikistan had agreed to permit Afghan refugees to enter, and that the Tajik authorities were going to set up centers along the border to screen and assist the refugees.

However, when some 10,000 Afghans fleeing Taliban attack reached the border in November, Russian forces guarding the Tajik border, on instructions from the government of Tajikistan, refused them entry. The would-be refugees became stranded on a group of islands in the Panj River, unable to return because Taliban forces were massed on one side and unable to move forward because Tajikistan would not permit them entry.

UNHCR and other organizations appealed to the Tajik authorities to grant refuge to the Afghans, who were at risk because of poor living conditions and periodic shelling by the Taliban. However, the Tajik authorities refused. They claimed that if they permitted this group to enter, tens of thousands more Afghans, perhaps including some Taliban infiltrators, might follow.

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