OSH, 27 July (IRIN) - Hundreds of Uzbek asylum seekers in southern Kyrgyzstan will be resettled to a third country, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) confirmed to IRIN on Wednesday.
According to the UNHCR mission in Kyrgyzstan, all Uzbek asylum seekers, namely 423 people, in the Sasyk-Bulak camp in the southern Kyrgyz province of Jalal-Abad would be resettled.
More than 500 Uzbeks crossed the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border early on 14 May, one day after Uzbek security forces violently suppressed protests in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijan. The Uzbek government said that the death toll was 187, but rights groups claimed that almost 1,000 unarmed civilians may have been shot in and around Andijan by Uzbek police and soldiers.
On Wednesday morning, the first group of 80 Uzbek asylum seekers from the camp was sent to the capital Bishkek, with the remaining group scheduled to follow them on Thursday.
"The asylum seekers will be sent to a third country, which expressed willingness to host them until other countries are ready to provide asylum for them," Zafar Khakimov, head of the Kyrgyz migration department, told IRIN.
During their stay in that third country, the asylum seekers would be given the status of UNHCR mandated refugees, meaning that they would be under the direct protection of the UN refugee agency and not of any particular state, Khakimov added.
As for the 29 asylum seekers currently being held in custody in southern Kyrgyzstan for alleged criminal offences and whom Tashkent wants extradited, the Kyrgyz official said that their fate would be decided shortly.
On 23 July, Kyrgyzstan's president-elect Kurmanbek Bakiyev said that 12 asylum seekers of the 29 held in detention would likely be returned to Uzbekistan, AFP reported.
"I consider that the place of a criminal is in prison...Among the more than 400 Uzbeks who have sought refuge in our country after the Andijan events in May there are 12 who have really committed crimes in Uzbekistan," Bakiyev reportedly said.
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