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

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

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 - Uzbekistan , 20 June 2001, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3c56c11624.html [accessed 24 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, Uzbekistan hosted some 38,000 refugees, including approximately 30,000 ethnic Uzbeks from Tajikistan, more than 8,000 Afghans, and 350 others of various nationalities.

Refugees

Uzbekistan is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention or Protocol and does not have national legislation regarding refugees. It is, however, drafting such legislation, which it may adopt in 2001. In the absence of such legislation, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) carries out refugee status determinations.

The Uzbek government has signed the 1999 Charter for European Security, which, although not a legally binding document, calls on signatories to respect the right to seek asylum and to protect refugees. In practice, however, refugees in Uzbekistan find little legal protection and experience difficult living conditions because of strict Uzbek laws affecting foreigners. (For example, all foreigners, including refugees, must pay in U.S. dollars for housing, medical expenses, and transportation.)

Uzbekistan's primary political consideration is its own security, and its refugee policies are shaped by security concerns. Also, the government of Uzbekistan does not appear to consider refugees as people in need of protection. It generally treats them as it does any other would-be immigrants.

Refugees who enter Uzbekistan "illegally" are subject to arrest, detention, and deportation. Until 1999, the Uzbek authorities also routinely arrested and detained UNHCR-recognized refugees as illegal immigrants. However, in August 1999, the Uzbek authorities made a verbal commitment to UNHCR not to arrest or detain UNHCR-recognized refugees (the agreement did not extend to asylum seekers pending determination of their claims). The agreement has led to a reduction in, but not the complete elimination of, the detention of refugees. In May, the Uzbek authorities granted UNHCR permission to visit refugees in detention.

The 30,000 Tajik refugees in Uzbekistan are ethnic Uzbeks who lived in Tajikistan before the outbreak of civil war there in the early 1990s. Until 2000, they lived in Uzbekistan without particular difficulties. However, in 2000 the Uzbek government began to deport Tajiks indiscriminately, including ethnic Uzbeks living in Uzbekistan without legal status. UNHCR anticipates that many Uzbek Tajiks in Uzbekistan may apply for individual refugee status determination to gain greater security from summary deportation.

Most of the other refugees in Uzbekistan are Afghans who fled the civil war in their homeland. UNHCR has recognized more than 1,000 of them as mandate refugees and considers the others to be "of concern." According to UNHCR, because it lacks funds, it is only able to assist the most vulnerable refugees on a very limited basis.

Political Developments in Uzbekistan

The government of Uzbekistan is an authoritarian regime that suppresses opposition and seeks to decrease Muslim fundamentalism by restricting the practice of Islam (the religion of the vast majority of its population).

In a March 2000 report on Uzbekistan, the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) noted that the Uzbek government had passed laws protecting human rights and that it claims to be "gradually progressing towards democratization." In reality, the CSCE said, "There has been no liberalization of society nor any convincing evidence of serious intentions in that direction."

Human Rights Watch adds that the Uzbek government seeks to "intimidate, silence, and punish those who expose abuses" by detaining human rights activists and brutally beating them during interrogations.

Uzbekistan's crackdown on the practice of Islam has given rise to an armed opposition movement, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), that on several occasions during 2000 carried out attacks on Uzbek towns. One such attack, an August 22 assault by 100 armed men on the town of Bostanlik, 62 miles (100 km) northeast of the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, caused the temporary displacement of hundreds of civilians.

The rebels operate out of Afghanistan and Tajikistan. According to the U.S. State Department, the IMU receives support from Afghanistan's ruling Taliban, with which it shares a radical Islamist philosophy.

In December, a group of Central Asian human rights organizations meeting in Vienna issued a declaration that expressed concern "over the escalation of the armed conflict between the Islamic opposition and the Uzbek government…[which could lead to a] possible outbreak of a civil war in Uzbekistan in the next few years." The groups called on both sides to initiate talks aimed at finding a nonviolent solution to the situation.

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