At the end of 2003, Tajikistan hosted about 3,200 refugees and asylum seekers, nearly all Afghans. `The precise number is unknown because the government has not kept accurate records of refugee returns.
During the course of the year, 246 persons sought asylum in Tajikistan, mostly Afghans (243). The government granted 110 persons refugee status (109 Afghans and one Iranian), rejected 56 claims, and some 440 cases were pending at the end of the year.
UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Tajikistan assisted 143 Afghans to repatriate, and Tajik authorities forcibly deported another 9.
In 2003, there were an estimated 59,800 Tajik refugees, mostly in neighboring states. UNHCR assisted with the repatriation of 264 of them.
Developments in 2003
The government began a registration to update the number of asylum seekers and refugees residing in Tajikistan, since their statistics did not accurately reflect departures.
UNHCR reported that protection conditions in Tajikistan had improved considerably compared to previous years. The government resumed refugee status determinations procedures suspended for the two years ago, and allowed UNHCR to observe the process. However, two resolutions of Tajik government remained problematic. One resolution prohibits residence of refugees and asylum seekers – but not other foreigners – in certain areas of the country including Dushanbe, the town of Khujand and the administrative center of Sugh – all areas with high concentrations of refugees and asylum seekers – and mandates their relocation. Another resolution prohibits refugee status determinations for asylum seekers who arriving through these countries deemed safe, including Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, China, Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. The refugee law does not mention safe third countries, and implementation of the resolution would deny many the right to seek asylum in Tajikistan. The State Migration Service proposed to amend the resolutions to conform to the law but the government had not passed it by the end of the year.
Officials harassed Afghan refugees, demanding bribes, imposing illegal registration fines, and issuing police summons without evidence linking Afghans to the Taliban.
Many persons of concern to UNHCR lacked documentation but the registration process undertaken by the government should remedy this.
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