Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2018, 17:46 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - Tajikistan

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 June 2003
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - Tajikistan , 1 June 2003, available at: [accessed 21 January 2018]
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 2002, Tajikistan hosted 3,500 refugees and asylum seekers, nearly all Afghans registered with the national refugee body, the State Migration Service (SMS) at the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare.

During the course of the year, 153 other Afghans and 2 Uighurs applied for refugee status, but were rejected and not registered with SMS. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Dushanbe exceptionally granted refugee status to an Iraqi national.

Tajikistan is a party to the UN Refugee Convention, and the Tajik Constitution provides for asylum. Refugee registration and status determination procedures are carried out almost entirely by SMS. Some 11,800 Afghans repatriated from Tajikistan in 2002. UNHCR helped 9,800 persons return, including 9,000 Afghans who had been stranded since August on islets in the Pianj river forming part of the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan. (Technically, they were considered internally displaced persons in Afghanistan rather than refugees in Tajikistan.) About 2,000 Afghans marooned on the same islets returned to Afghanistan on their own. Tajikistan authorities deported 14 Afghan heads of families to Afghanistan.

UNHCR, based in the Tajik capital Dushanbe, reports that over 150 Afghan refugees and asylum seekers left Tajikistan during 2002 in search of a better asylum environment and resettlement opportunities in other countries of Central Asia and beyond.

A major problem in the work of SMS is the time lag in issuing and extending refugee certificates. Because of this, the majority of refugees possess refugee documents that are invalid. Most asylum seekers have no documents at all. UNHCR noted "a systematic deterioration of the protection situation of the refugees in Tajikistan during the last three years" which "renders refugees and asylum seekers extremely vulnerable" and hampers local integration.

Action to initiate resettlement of eligible refugees often appeared to be warranted. Tajik authorities accused the Afghans, including recognized refugees, of involvement in illegal activities and promotion of the Taliban and Islamist movements in the country. In 2002, UNHCR considered the risk of refoulement by the Tajikistan government to be very high, and considered a certain number of cases to require urgent action for resettlement for their physical security.

Two government resolutions adopted in 2000, enshrined in a new Law on Refugees enacted on May 10, 2002, have led to the virtual denial of the right to seek asylum in Tajikistan. Under the Law, access to status determination is denied if an asylum seeker comes from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Russia, Belarus, China, Afghanistan, Iran, or Pakistan, and mobility and the permitted places of residence for asylum seekers are severely restricted. The new law also excludes asylum seekers married to Tajiks from refugee status and contains other restrictions incompatible with the UN Refugee Convention. This, combined with the reluctance during the year on the part of the government to extend the validity of refugee documents, triggered requests for resettlement from the Afghan refugees.

In 2002, there were an estimated 53,000 Tajik refugees, mostly in neighboring states: about 30,000 in Uzbekistan, 12,000 in Turkmenistan, 7,000 in Kyrgyzstan, and 4,000 in Kazakhstan. During the year, UNHCR facilitated the repatriation of 1,100 Tajik refugees to Tajikistan, with 628 persons repatriating from Kazakhstan, 253 from Pakistan, 122 from Kyrgyzstan, and 111 from Turkmenistan. Since the 1997 end of the post-independence (1991) civil war that left 50,000–100,000 dead in the country, UNHCR has helped more than 15,000 Tajiks return to their homes.

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