UN moves towards resolving refugee situation in ex-Soviet Central Asian states
The United Nations refugee agency announced today that, together with Turkmenistan's government, it had completed the country's first ever registration of all refugees, in a major step toward resolving the situation arising from conflicts in nearby Afghanistan and Tajikistan.
The exercise in the central Asian country began in October 2004, recording some 11,000 ethnic Turkmen who had arrived from Tajikistan and more than 500 from Afghanistan.
The collapse of the Soviet Union and ensuing civil wars and ethnic conflicts in the early 1990s created a complex refugee picture in the five Central Asian countries. UNHCR's engagement in the region began in Tajikistan in 1993 as an emergency response to help more than 600,000 people displaced by civil war. Within a few years, it had expanded to Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
The majority of the ethnic Turkmen fled to Turkmenistan from Tajikistan between 1992 and 1997. A number of other Turkmen had arrived earlier from Afghanistan and were granted residence permits in Turkmenistan in 1994.
Following positive developments for refugees in Tajikistan, UNHCR said last week it would assess over the next six months whether conditions exist to declare the cessation of refugee status for displaced Tajiks by the end of 2005 or the beginning of 2006. One important condition is that a cessation clause should not result in persons residing in a host state being left with an uncertain status.
There are over 50,000 Tajik refugees in Central Asia, with 40,000 of them in Uzbekistan.