Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 January 2019, 15:06 GMT

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

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 - Kyrgyzstan , 1 June 2003, available at: [accessed 23 January 2019]
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.

Kyrgyzstan hosted about 8,300 refugees and asylum seekers at the end of 2002. These included more than 6,800 mostly ethnic Kyrgyz from Tajikistan; about 750 mostly ethnic Tajiks from Afghanistan; nearly 700 asylum seekers with claims pending before the government; 15 refugees of other nationalities, including 8 Uighurs from China considered as refugees by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); and 20 Uighurs with claims pending before UNHCR.

Kyrgyzstan is a party to the UN Refugee Convention. Although the Kyrgyz authorities usually determine the status of asylum seekers, UNHCR conducts individual refugee status determinations in exceptional cases, including those of Uighurs from China, to whom the Kyrgyz government will not grant asylum.

During the year, some 250 asylum applications were filed with the Department of Migration Service. Comprehensive data on approvals, denials, or appeals was not available; however, the government was known to have granted asylum to 81 Afghans and 127 Tajiks during 2002 (including cases pending from the previous year).

In March, Kyrgyzstan enacted refugee legislation to replace administrative provisions in place since 1996. The legislation made several improvements over the previous policies, in particular by removing the safe-third-country provision and the three-day filing deadline for asylum applications. Also under the new law, government-recognized refugees may reside in the country indefinitely and have the rights of other non-citizens, including the right to wok and receive travel documents.

Refugees from Tajikistan

An estimated 90 to 95 percent of the 6,800 refugees from Tajikistan were ethnic Kyrgyz who arrived in Kyrgyzstan after its independence in 1991 or following the outbreak of civil war in Tajikistan in 1992. UNHCR assisted some 120 ethnic Kyrgyz in repatriating to Tajikistan during 2002, bringing the total number of returns to Tajikistan to nearly 6,000 since 1998.

Afghan Refugees

In previous years, Afghan refugees faced various barriers to asylum in Kyrgyzstan, including denial on safe-third-country grounds. However, under the March legislation, Afghans are able to have their asylum claims fully adjudicated. The legislation also removed barriers to court appeals.

Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, Kyrgyz authorities – suspecting that terrorists might be among the asylum seekers – have reportedly detained many Afghans, including recognized refugees. Some Afghans claimed to have been beaten and threatened with deportation while in detention.

UNHCR-assisted repatriation of Afghans from Kyrgyzstan began in 2002. During the year, 88 Afghans registered with UNHCR as wishing to repatriate, of whom 68 had returned by year's end. Another 16 Afghans returned on their own.

Some 200 Afghans have been resettled from Kyrgyzstan to other countries.

Chechen Refugees

Some 500 Chechen asylum seekers resided in Kyrgyzstan at the end of 2002. The government reportedly is reluctant to recognize Chechens as refugees for fear of harming Kyrgyz-Russian relations. Instead, Kyrgyz authorities maintain their status as that of asylum seekers with pending claims, and reportedly will permit them to remain in the country until the conflict in Chechnya subsides. As asylum seekers, they can work, but not for the government. They can move freely within the country and receive certain benefits. However, some Chechen refugees have reported police harassment.

Many Chechens first came to Kyrgyzstan in the 1940s, when Stalin deported nearly the entire Chechen population to Central Asia. Although many of the refugees returned to Chechnya in the 1980s, many fled back to Kyrgyzstan when conflict erupted in Chechnya during the 1990s. After September 11, 2001, Kyrgyzstan began detaining many Chechens. During 2002, UNHCR assisted 14 Chechens to repatriate.

Uighurs from China

Although few ethnic Uighurs from China have applied for asylum in Kyrgyzstan, their situation was of concern to UNHCR in 2002. According to Human Rights Watch, Kyrgyz authorities in previous years have forcibly returned a small number of Uighurs to China, where members of the ethnic group have been subject to persecution. Because of bilateral agreements with China, the Kyrgyz authorities do not grant asylum to Chinese Uighurs. For this reason, UNHCR individually reviews Uighur asylum applications and seeks resettlement outside the region for those the agency recognizes as refugees.

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