Kyrgyzstan must fulfill its commitments regarding refugees
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The situation around refugees from Uzbekistan in the south of Kyrgyzstan attracted the attention of many authoritative international organizations, such as Human Rights, Amnesty International. Mary Murphy, a spokesman for the Oasis Internet journal Almaz Kalet, spoke with Amnesty International Central Asia researcher Mary Murphy.
What is the main purpose of your visit to Kyrgyzstan?
We were particularly concerned about the situation around the refugees. Although, frankly, their status has not yet been formally defined. And of course the situation in Andijan.
We wanted to get first-hand information in order to have a real picture of what is happening.
Did the overall picture of events differ from what you heard and saw before, from the reality that you saw here ...
You know, in the first days there was a lot of information. It was hard enough to compare them and choose one thing. Everyone “attacked” interesting people, eyewitnesses of events. Sometimes you get more reliable information from very simple people. I, for example, asked women. My colleague interviewed wounded men. Of course, everyone in the first days was looking for very “famous” people for an interview.
Regarding the overall picture of what is happening, we were a little surprised by the situation with the refugees. Knowing Kyrgyzstan for a long time, since the 1990s, even knowing what conventions Kyrgyzstan has signed, what good laws on refugees you have, the process of working with refugees could be more constructive. Unfortunately it was not.
We understand that there is political pressure on Kyrgyzstan from the outside. Kyrgyzstan is a young state, but despite this, he has experience working with refugees. Maybe this is the first time that a neighboring state has such a strong influence on the situation.
Tell me, what difficulties did the Kyrgyz side have in resolving the problems?
They simply did not follow the procedure stipulated in the Conventions and your refugee laws.
What is the status of the people in the camp now?
They now have no status. Because the procedure has not yet begun. According to your laws, the Kyrgyz side has the right to keep such persons close to the borders for the first 72 hours, and in fact they were there for three weeks. The first step was to transfer them to another, safer place, away from the border. Then the registration process. This is the first step towards the determination of refugee status. After that - interviewing to determine who is who, to know who is really going to return and who is not. This process can last for three months, and under international law, six months. And the registration process could start a long time ago.
So, have they not been so registered yet?
No, but we were told that registration will begin today (the interview was taken at the airport of Osh, in southern Kyrgyzstan, on 6 June 2005, 3-4 hours drive from the refugee camp. Av.). Only during this week will begin the registration of all persons in the camp.
How did the Kyrgyz side explain the delay in these activities?
It is said that after your revolution many experienced people left work. And those new ones that came to their places are not so competent. Now, the United Nations Office for Refugees is going to train those who will work with refugees in the future.
In your opinion, the main reason is the lack of professionalism of these structures?
I dont know. This is probably one of the reasons.
How many of your data are currently in a refugee camp?
When they were transported, they counted 466, but this morning four more returned to Uzbekistan. Among them are about eighty women and 19 children.
You also mentioned in connection with the refugee issue the International Convention on Torture ...
This Convention has an article that states that a person cannot be returned to his country if there is a possibility that he may be tortured there. Especially when this information is well known. The host should have all the information about this. A special UN report has long been said that, unfortunately, torture is widely used in Uzbekistan.
How many refugees, according to your data, returned to Uzbekistan?
It is hard to say how much. There in the camp, one of the soldiers told me that two days ago two hundred people returned to Uzbekistan. Here, a lot of questions raise language peculiarities and not only. They are "returned" or they are "returned." It is well known that 86 people returned.
At the very beginning of this whole story there were many cases when people approached the camp, hoping to get there. For some reason, everyone believed that this group, which was already de facto located in another territory, has a special status. Although she had no status.
It seems to me that many people live with relatives or are hiding, waiting for the moment when their fate will be decided.
You saw a new place for a refugee camp. Is it better than the former?
Much more Maybe even for one reason, that far from the border. There is no visible border between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Regarding accommodation. They live in tents. It is sunny now, but when it rains, they sit like fish in a tin can. We also brought them radio and newspapers. But there were moments when the military said that it was forbidden to distribute newspapers. I told them that even in prison people are given to read and receive information, and they are not in prison.
What do you think, which way out of this problem is acceptable for the Kyrgyz side?
I, an idealist, because a human rights activist. In my opinion, it is necessary to work according to the law. He is yours. Nobody forced you to sign an international convention. It is always difficult to work with refugees in general and with refugees from Uzbekistan in Kyrgyzstan, in particular. Therefore, even international organizations fear an increase in the number of refugees after the status of those already in the south of Kyrgyzstan is precisely determined. There was another time when I left the camp, a young military man asked me, and “for what they fought, there, in Andijan?”, I answered him, for what I fought for.