U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2006 - Uzbekistan



Refoulement/Physical Protection

Uzbekistan deported one recognized refugee to Afghanistan. Uzbekistan did not offer any formal protection against refoulement, and is the only member of the Commonwealth of Independent States not to have adopted the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The Government generally respected a 1999 informal agreement with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to protect recognized refugees from detention, arrest, or refoulement. This only applies to about 1,800 refugees, mostly Afghans. The Government considered asylum seekers and the remaining refugees to be illegal migrants, and they were subject to harassment, arrest, and demands for bribes.

Uzbekistan's Constitution vested the authority to grant asylum with the President, but there was no official procedure.

In April 2006, UNHCR pulled out of Uzbekistan at the insistence of the Government. The UN Development Program took over support of refugees in Uzbekistan.

The 39,200 refugees from Tajikistan were largely ethnic Uzbeks, and were more successful than other refugees at integrating into Uzbek society. However, most carried only passports of the former Soviet Union and risked statelessness under Uzbek and Tajik law. In December, UNHCR announced that their claim to prima facie refugee status would expire in June 2006.

Around 470 Afghan refugees resettled to third countries during the year. UNHCR helped about 20 refugees, asylum seekers, and failed asylum seekers repatriate.

Detention/Access to Courts

The Government detained 15 Afghan refugees and asylum seekers. UNHCR was able to monitor them, and secured the release of all but one. In the past, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had notified UNHCR of detained foreigners that wished to contact the agency but, in 2004, ICRC suspended its prison visits because the Uzbek authorities did not provide satisfactory conditions for these visits.

Under Uzbek law, illegal entry into the country was punishable by fines and imprisonment of up to ten years. There was an exception for those seeking political asylum, but no mechanism for receiving claims.

In general, the Government considered refugees to be illegal migrants and did not grant them access to courts. Those who had valid residence permits could access the courts as foreign nationals.

Freedom of Movement and Residence

There were no camps in Uzbekistan, but refugees' illegal status limited their movement and choice of residence, as those without UNHCR documents were subject to arrest and detention at any time. The Government required UNHCR to provide a list of registered refugees and would detain those found living at different addresses than officially reported.

Local authorities also told refugees that they could not travel outside Tashkent without permission. When they did travel within the country, UNHCR had to provide registered refugees with letters to avoid their detention.

Right to Earn a Livelihood

Refugees and asylum seekers did not have the right to work in Uzbekistan. The law prohibited foreigners without visas or who failed to register with the Ministry of the Interior within three days of arrival, from working, with no exception for refugees. About one-fifth of the refugee population worked in the informal sector without legal protection.

Public Relief and Education

The Government granted free education through ninth grade to the children of refugees registered with UNHCR. The Government did not permit those without official permission to stay in Uzbekistan to pursue higher education.

All refugees had to pay for medical services, which were free to Uzbek citizens. UNHCR provided medical assistance and financial support to the most vulnerable refugees, including women heads of households, the elderly, and the disabled.

Other Developments In May, about 100 to 150 men attacked a police station and jail in Andijan, a city on the border with Kyrgyzstan, freeing a group of businessmen on trial for ties to Islamic extremism. The next day, troops launched an assault on a large protest that broke out after the raid. An independent investigator found the death toll to be around 180, although other estimates ranged to 400. About 500 fled to Kyrgyzstan.

Uzbekistan made numerous attempts to coerce the refugees to return, including detaining and threatening their families, at least two attempts to remove refugees from the camps by force, and pressuring Kyrgyzstan to deport them. Kyrgyzstan deported four Uzbeks in June whom the Uzbek authorities arrested and held incommunicado. UNHCR transported 439 of the refugees to Romania pending permanent resettlement, but the Uzbek Government has allegedly detained, interrogated, and tortured 4,500 of their family members.


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