During a just-concluded visit to Central Asia, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has strengthened his agency’s cooperation with the Governments of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan to assist thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers in the two countries.
António Guterres wrapped up a five-day visit to the two countries on Thursday, after agreeing to boost refugee assistance in Kyrgyzstan and signing a cooperation agreement with Kazakhstan to play a greater role in addressing global asylum-migration issues, the agency (UNHCR) said in a press release.
While in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, the High Commissioner met with President Kurmanbek Bakiev, as well as the prosecutor general, the minister of foreign affairs and the chairperson of the State Committee on Migration and Employment, which deals with asylum and refugee issues.
Mr. Guterres expressed his appreciation to the Government for respecting refugee rights in a difficult political environment, and for naturalizing some 9,000 refugees from Tajikistan. He also pledged to reduce statelessness in the country, believed to affect more than 10,000 people.
Also in Bishkek, the High Commissioner opened the region’s first reception centre for asylum seekers, offering temporary shelter as well as interview, medical and information facilities to refugees and asylum seekers.
Kyrgyzstan hosts several hundred refugees and asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
During his stay in Astana, Mr. Guterres met Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and other high-ranking officials, including the ombudsman and the chairman of the Human Rights Commission.
UNHCR is assisting Kazakhstan in drafting a national refugee law. Mr. Guterres was assured that the law would serve as a model for legislation in the region as it seeks to strike a balance between Kazakhstan’s national concerns and international refugee and human rights obligation, the agency said.
According to the agency, Kazakhstan is host to some 3,700 Chechens from the Russian Federation, as well as several hundred people from Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and China.