U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1998 - Kyrgyzstan

    At the end of 1996, nearly 17,000 registered refugees were in Kyrgyzstan, according to the Department of Migration. The vast majority, 16,708, were from Tajikistan. Of these, 13,870 were ethnic Kyrgyz. The remainder included people from the Russian Federation (Chechnya, 142), Afghanistan (105), Georgia (13), and Azerbaijan (11). The government reported that more than 45,000 people from Tajikistan were living in Kyrgyzstan, but asserted that more than 60 percent of them were economic migrants. Renewed fighting in Tajikistan in September 1996 did not produce a new influx of Tajik refugees. In October 1996, Kyrgyzstan formally acceded to the UN Refugee Convention and Protocol. In July, a "Temporary Provision on Refugees" (similar to a presidential decree) was enacted to govern refugee issues until national legislation, still in the draft stage at the end of 1996, could be enacted. During 1996, the Kyrgyz government registered applications from 4,855 asylum seekers. Many of these arrived in Kyrgyzstan before 1996, but had not applied for asylum previously because status determination procedures were not yet fully established. Of these, 3,602 applications were submitted by persons from Tajikistan (3,389 applications were accepted, 115 rejected, and 98 remained pending at the end of the year), 1,044 were from persons from Afghanistan (113 accepted, 381 rejected, and 550 pending), and 143 were from persons from the Chechnya region of the Russian Federation (all but one application was accepted). Smaller numbers of asylum seekers came from Azerbaijan, China, Ethiopia, Georgia, and Iran. During 1996, most refugees lived in the Osh and Chuy regions and in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan's capital. Refugees and asylum seekers received no housing assistance, although UNHCR provided roofing materials in a few areas. UNHCR also operated mobile medical centers in Bishkek and Osh. International and local NGOs provided some food and clothing. Refugees in Kyrgyzstan had the same right to employment and education as Kyrgyz citizens. UNHCR reported that, during the year, the government provided food and other assistance to ethnic Kyrgyz in neighboring Tajikistan in order to prevent migration into Kyrgyzstan based solely on lack of food. In late 1996, the Bishkek Center for Migration Management was established with the assistance of IOM and UNHCR. The center is intended to assist governments in the regionKyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan are participatingto develop legislation relevant to migration issues. Also established in 1996 was an Inter-Departmental Commission on Migrants and Refugees intended to review, draft, and establish policies on national migration and refugee issues. The Migration Department, a division of the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, received UNHCR financial and consultative support. UNHCR opened two NGO support centers in Kyrgyzstan in the fall of 1996. The centers are intended to raise public awareness, channel NGOs to work more closely with refugee communities, and encourage refugees to begin their own community groups and NGOs. A report citing the National Statistics Committee in Bishkek stated that more than 20,000 people left Kyrgyzstan during 1996, including 17,500 who departed for other countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States. The Russian Federation registered more than 9,000 new arrivals from Kyrgyzstan during the year.

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