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Thursday, May 19, 2005

 

Concern over fate of refugees

From Reuters AlertNet:

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)in Uzbekistan confirmed on Wednesday that it was conducting an assessment mission in the border region with Kyrgyzstan to investigate reports that groups of Uzbeks who had tried to escape the killing in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijan by crossing into Kyrgyzstan, were stuck at the border.

But a UNHCR programme officer in Kyrgyzstan, Almaz Burkutov, told IRIN from Kara-Suu on the border, that he had spoken to border officials late on Wednesday and that there were no reports of groups fleeing Andijan wanting to cross in order to seek asylum in Kyrgyzstan.

A human rights activist in Andijan told IRIN by telephone that he was concerned about the fate of hundreds of people who had fled the city, but had not presented themselves as refugees in Kyrgyzstan. "If 500 are dead and 600 or so have escaped across the border, that leaves at least 500 unaccounted for, the families are very worried."

In southern Kyrgyzstan, UNHCR said doctors from Jalal-Abad provincial hospital were attending to Uzbek refugees housed in a temporary camp in Suzak district, close to the border. At least 560 refugees crossed the border at the weekend escaping the violence in Andijan, some were wounded, most were exhausted. The refugees said Uzbek authorities had opened fire on peaceful protesters and bystanders and that hundreds of innocent people had been shot dead.

The refugees told IRIN they wanted to stay in Kyrgyzstan in order to escape persecution in Uzbekistan. "What we witnessed in Andijan was slaughter, a regime capable of that is capable of anything," said a woman who had left her two children behind in the city when she fled for her life early on Saturday morning.

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