UN refugee agency-backed workshop tackles issue of statelessness in Central Asia, UNHCR-built school in Turkmenistan, 26 April 2007:
The United Nations refugee agency has completed a two-day workshop on curbing statelessness in Central Asia, where the disbanding of the Soviet Union and civil wars have resulted in thousands of people not having a fixed nationality.
“This is an important event for the countries of the former Soviet Union and the region,” said Tajikistan Government minister Gulchehra Sharipova of the event – mostly funded by the European Union (EU) and attended by 33 Government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – held in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe.
“We have survived a period of transition and faced many new challenges, including statelessness,” he added. “Tajikistan has seen its full impact; many people had to leave during the war [in the 1990s] and are still facing problems today.”
Under international law, a stateless person is defined as someone not considered as a national by any State under its laws. There are at least 20,000 stateless people in Central Asia according to official figures, with more than 10,000 each residing in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, almost 200 in Tajikistan and an unknown number in Turkmenistan.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), however, believes that these numbers do not accurately reflect the situation on the ground. “These numbers are based on the number of people who have been issued stateless certificates by the authorities and do not represent the real scale of the problem,” the agency’s expert on the issue of statelessness, Philippe Leclerc, said. (Full text).
(This workshop is the first in a series of regional activities on bolstering asylum systems in Central Asia set to end this December, and 80 per cent of the project is funded by the EU while UNHCR provides the remaining 20 per cent).