AFGHAN REFUGEES: ANOTHER HEADACHE FOR KYRGYSTAN?
coordinating meeting was held on 11 October in Bishkek. Kyrgyz government
officials, representatives of UN agencies and of several donor organizations
gathered in this meeting to discuss the current situation in Kyrgyzstan, as
well as the international situation that has taken a dramatic shift after the
terrorist attacks on September 11. Participants focused on a potential
increase in the flow of Afghan refugees into Kyrgyzstan, and the measures to
be taken to prepare for this possibility.
the meeting, Deputy Foreign Minister Sultan Zakirov said that the terrorist
attacks that took place in the United States last month and the current
anti-terrorist actions in Afghanistan are having a great impact on the
international situation, and that they are raising concerns regarding the
future stability and security in Central Asia. One of the major issues that
raise concern to Central Asian countries is the potential flow of Afghan
refugees into the region. Since
Kyrgyzstan in 1996 ratified the International Convention on the Status of
Refugees and the UN Convention on Refugees,
it is obliged to accept the Afghan refugees. Thus the country is
legally bound to provide asylum to refugees and to fulfill its international
obligations. From 1999 to September 2001 Kyrgyzstan accepted 600 refugees, 416
of which were from Afghanistan. According to official data, a total of 831
Afghans are registered as refugees in Kyrgyzstan and 150 more are to receive
the meeting, Deputy Minister of Extreme Situations and Ecology Avazbek Kaliev
informed that it is expected that about 10,000 refugees may flow into the
country through Chong-Alay, and 2,500 more through Murghab. According to
Kaliev, although Kyrgyzstan will probably witness a considerable flow of
Afghan refugees beginning only next spring, some measures have already been
taken by the Ministry and by competent government bodies to deal with the
situation. A chief coordinating committee was established, which will be
responsible for placing and assisting the refugees.
the meeting, first deputy Prime Minister Nikolay Tanayev said that a country
like Kyrgyzstan cannot handle these refugee problems by itself. He added that
international donor organizations should give grants to Kyrgyzstan. According
to the information provided by the Ministry of Extreme Situations and Ecology,
20 million Soms will be needed for the placement of refugees and to provide
for their basic needs. As was informed at a press conference on September 26,
the UNDP and UNHCR are to provide humanitarian aid in case of a refugee flow
into Kyrgyzstan. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already asked other
international organizations for assistance.
Kyrgyz government intends to place the probable Afghan refugees in the
southern regions of the country. These are the Jalalabad and Osh regions. In
an interview, the Head of the Civic Defense and Ecology Headquarters Jyrgalbek
Mukashev said that about 500 refugees would be placed in every city of
Jalalabad, about 1000 in every rayon, and about 10000 refugees would be placed
in the entire region. The
refugees will live in some schools, technical lyceums and dormitories.
font-family:"Lucida Bright"">Although some experts do not see any
danger of large influx of refugees into Kyrgyzstan, there are still grounds
for concern. As a consequence of
refugee influx, Kyrgyzstan can be economically overwhelmed. yes"> In addition, the social tensions in the country may heighten
and the fragile balance in the south may break down. Some critics argue that
the placement of Afghan refugees in the south might pose a threat not only to
the situation of these regions but also of Kyrgyzstan in general. This is
because of the density of the population of the southern regions.
Because the portion of land that southern residents receive is very
small, this has often resulted in a south-north migration.
If Afghan refugees will populate the southern regions, this situation
could be further exacerbated and create social instability. A second reason is
related to the situation with religious extremism. During the last three years
the south, specifically the Batken region, has been subject of Islamic
incursions; moreover, the religious extremist organization Hizb-ut-Tahrir is
particularly active in the south of the country. If members of the Taliban
movement or some other terrorist organizations will pose as Afghan refugees
and manage to come to Kyrgyzstan it is quite possible that the extremist
movement in the south will be further activated.
criticism may be legitimate, and more criticism regarding the flow of Afghan
refugees into Kyrgyzstan is likely to be voiced. However, it is too late for
Kyrgyzstan to back away from the international obligations that it has taken
upon itself, and no matter how the situation with refugees will turn out, the
country has to face it. If some foreign aid will be provided, and most
importantly, if the resources will be spent rationally and in the right
direction, there is still hope that the Afghan refugees will not become an
impossible burden for Kyrgyzstan to bear.