At the end of 2003, Uzbekistan hosted an estimated 41,700 refugees and asylum seekers, including some 39,200 civil war refugees from Tajikistan and 2,500 UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)-recognized refugees, mostly Afghans.
An estimated 3,000 Uzbeks remained internally displaced because of government forced relocation in 2000 and 2001.
UNHCR received asylum claims from 424 persons in 2003, the majority from Afghanistan (378). They granted 157 claims (150 from Afghans) and rejected 201, including claims that were pending from last year.
Uzbekistan is the only former Soviet Central Asian republic that is not a party to the UN Refugee Convention and Protocol. It has no national legislation regarding refugees and UNHCR carries out refugee status determinations. UNHCR and the government have an informal agreement that the government will allow those recognized by UNHCR to stay. Uzbek authorities detained 32 refugees and asylum seekers in 2003. Following UNHCR intervention, they released 19 of them but, of the remainder, they deported 11 to Afghanistan, and 2 remained in prison at the end of the year. UNHCR reported that detained refugees and asylum seekers are usually released except when detained by the secret service. Since the beginning of 2003 UNHCR has submitted a list of asylum seekers it has registered to the authorities, along with decisions and recognized refugees, which has improved their treatment.
The Uzbek government officially denies the presence of refugees, but UNHCR has increased training and public information activities between UNCHR and several Uzbek law enforcement agencies. The government sent a Ministry of the Interior official to a regional refugee status determination workshop in Bishkek in 2003, and increased training for border guards.