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UN agency praises Kazakh decision not to extradite refugee to Uzbekistan

UN agency praises Kazakh decision not to extradite refugee to Uzbekistan

The United Nations refugee agency today warmly welcomed a decision by Kazakhstan’s authorities not to extradite an Uzbek refugee, despite a request from Uzbekistan, but instead to hand him over to the UN for immediate permanent resettlement with his family.

The decision comes less than a week after four Uzbek refugees and an asylum seeker were sent back by neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, a move that was sharply criticized by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which expressed grave fears for their safety. UNHCR said today it has heard nothing about the five since their forced return.

“We particularly welcome the open and cooperative spirit in which this case has been resolved, and the level of professionalism demonstrated by the Kazakh authorities in the process,” UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told reporters in Geneva today.

The Uzbek refugee in Kazakhstan, who had been living in the country for seven years with his family, was detained in late June following an Uzbek extradition request. After a thorough review, UNHCR considered the claims against him groundless and that he was in need of international protection and recognised him as a refugee.

“We feared his life would be in danger if he was returned to Uzbekistan,” the spokesperson said. “The Kazakh authorities also concluded the evidence upon which the extradition request was based was insufficient and rejected the request.”

Last week’s forced return of the Uzbeks by Kyrgyzstan was a “serious violation” of the 1951 Refugee Convention, Ms. Pagonis said, while adding that the agency was reassured by Kazakhstan’s commitment to the agreement as shown by today’s decision. The refugee was handed over to the UNHCR in the city of Almaty.

“We see this as the result of a long-standing cooperation between UNHCR and the government, aimed at strengthening Kazakhstan's capacity to provide international refugee protection as set out in international refugee law.”