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Kyrgyzstan: Neighbouring countries must open borders to refugees

Amnesty International is calling on all countries neighbouring Kyrgyzstan to open their borders to thousands of people desperately seeking refuge from the violence that has engulfed the southern part of the country in the last five days.

The violence in and around the southern cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad and towns and villages in the region with large Uzbek populations has claimed the lives of hundreds of people and left thousands injured.

Amnesty has received reports that armed young men continue to roam the streets, setting houses on fire, beating, shooting and killing people they believe to be Uzbek.

Up to 100,000 people, mainly of Uzbek origin, and predominantly Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and Children's rights, are believed to have sought refuge in Uzbekistan from the violence, where the authorities are trying to accommodate those fleeing the violence.

Amnesty International Central Asia expert Maisy Weicherding said:

“The Uzbekistani authorities must also ensure unconditional and unhindered access to international humanitarian organisations that have the expertise and resources to deal with such a mass influx of refugees.

“There is an urgent need to provide humanitarian assistance to all those who fled from Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan, including those who are currently still waiting to enter Uzbekistan, to register and assess the protection needs of everyone, including unaccompanied Children's rights, and for families to be reunited.

“Food, water, shelter, as well as essential medical services must be provided to all, and their security must be ensured.”

Amnesty has learnt that while many of those fleeing violence are being sheltered in tents, schools and other public buildings in Uzbekistan, others are without adequate accommodation. Amnesty is particularly concerned for the safety of individuals who fled persecution in Uzbekistan over the last five years and were either recognised as refugees in Kyrgyzstan or were living in hiding in the south of Kyrgyzstan for fear of being forcibly returned to Uzbekistan.   

These individuals cannot return to Uzbekistan where they are at risk of torture and long-term imprisonment in cruel and inhuman conditions. Amnesty has received information that many are now living in fear of their lives, hiding from armed gangs who target Uzbeks.

Maisy Weicherding added:

“It is imperative that in this volatile and unpredictable situation the interim government and local authorities in Kyrgyzstan ensure adequate protection for all people in the country and in particular for the most vulnerable. The authorities in Kyrgyzstan must also prepare to shelter and feed people fleeing from the south to the north and may also need international humanitarian assistance.”

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