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Budgets and Expenditure in Subregion Central Asia
People of Concern - 2020[["Refugees",6405],["Asylum-seekers",975],["Stateless",88117]]
Response in 2020In 2020, Central Asia was home to some 88,117 stateless persons and 7,386 refugees and asylum-seekers, mostly from Afghanistan. The policies of the Central Asian countries continued to focus on socioeconomic development, improving the investment in addressing climate change and limiting immigration. Relations with neighbouring countries continued to influence the geopolitical context in the sub-region. Considering the proximity with Afghanistan and concerns over the spread of violence, national security imperatives dominated internal and foreign policies. The COVID-19 pandemic and related border closures affected refugee protection and access to asylum in the sub-region.
In line with its regional strategy for Central Asia (2019-2021), developed in collaboration with the Governments and other partners, UNHCR’s response focused on supporting the Governments in the region in eradicating and preventing statelessness, enhancing national asylum systems and advancing emergency preparedness. Expanded partnerships and inter-agency collaboration on birth registration and childhood statelessness, civil documentation, vital statistics, local solutions and inclusion were a key component of UNHCR’s work.
The Governments in the region continued to make significant strides towards eradicating statelessness. Over the course of the year, statelessness in Central Asia was further reduced by some 35,000 people, bringing the number of resolved cases since the launch of the #IBelong campaign to more than 110,000.
The Governments continued to proactively engage in the Almaty Process - a regional inter-governmental platform for dialogue on refugee protection and international migration to, from and within Central Asia. Having phased out of mandate refugee status determination in all countries in the sub-region, UNHCR focused on advocacy and capacity-building in support of national asylum systems. UNHCR also worked with local authorities and private sector partners to explore innovative and sustainable livelihood opportunities for refugees, with a view to promoting self-reliance and inclusion while alleviating the pressure on national and local systems. A small number of refugees were naturalized in 2020.
Following COVID-19, borders of all Central Asian countries were closed as of March 2020, with gradual reopening in the second half of the year (except Turkmenistan). The pandemic, strict lockdowns and/or travel restrictions prompted UNHCR and partners to swiftly adapt to ensure continued implementation of planned activities. COVID-19 limited the amount of in-person advocacy and slowed down work on individual casework during the first half of 2020, partly due to closure of consulates and/or much slower response on individual requests for the confirmation of nationality.
Funding opportunities for regular protection and solutions activities remained limited. To bridge the gap, UNHCR worked closely with its NGO and other partners to build fundraising potential and organizational capacity; and through expanded partnerships with Governments and United Nations agencies to advocate that refugees be included in national and local social, development and humanitarian assistance programmes.
Kazakhstan hosted 445 refugees and 233 asylum-seekers in 2020. According to the Government, 7,999 people were registered as stateless.
Turkmenistan hosted 21 mandate refugees, while no new asylum claims were recorded in 2020. There are over 3,900 stateless persons in Turkmenistan.
Uzbekistan hosted 14 mandate refugees. The Government reported that there were around 70,000 stateless persons with permanent residence in the country as of December 2020.
Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan implemented the birth registration pledges made at the High-Level Segment on Statelessness. Kazakhstan approved statelessness determination procedures as well as the new rules on issuing travel documents for refugees in line with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standard on machine-readable travel documents. Tajikistan granted citizenship to 4,200 stateless persons. Uzbekistan enacted a new citizenship law entitling some 50,000 stateless persons, granted permanent residence in Uzbekistan before 1 January 1995, to be recognized as citizens of Uzbekistan, while others to benefit from a simplified naturalization procedure.
Working environmentThe operational, including political, security, social and economic, environment in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan will largely remain unchanged in 2020. Internal policies of these states will continue to focus on socio-economic development, improving investment climate and limiting immigration. Reforms in Uzbekistan will further advance the regional cooperation in border, social, economic, security, and energy sectors. Relations with the neighbouring countries such as China and the Russian Federation will continue to heavily influence the geopolitical context in the sub-region. National security imperatives will dominate internal and foreign policies considering proximity with Afghanistan and concerns over the spread of terrorism. Therefore, the countries will most likely continue to strengthen the consolidation of political powers and authority. Such policies may negatively affect the human rights situation and contribute to further restrictions on the freedom of expression, association and religion. The latter, compounded by the lack of political will to address the plight of refugees and asylum-seekers, will remain a pivotal challenge for preserving the fragile protection space. In this regard, the Almaty Process will continue to play an important role in ensuring that the states pay due attention to the asylum and mixed migration issues. No major legislative or policy changes are expected on the asylum and refugee front in 2020. Access to the asylum in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan will remain practically unavailable due to the states’ closed border policies.
UNHCR expects that the countries in Central Asia will continue cooperation on the reduction and prevention of statelessness as part of the global #iBelong campaign to end statelessness. In Turkmenistan, the 2019-2024 National Action-Plan endorsed in January 2019 may accelerate the reduction efforts. In Uzbekistan, country-wide population documentation, birth registration, and civil registry reforms in 2019 may contribute to the prevention but it may also identify more stateless people in the country. Legislative reform continues to be a major field of UNHCR’s activities to ensure that due safeguards are in place in the national legislations to prevent statelessness.
Starting from January 2020, UNHCR multi-country office in Almaty will also cover Mongolia. The 2020 operations plan is based on the UNHCR’s Strategic Orientations in 2019-2021 for Central Asia and it focuses on three priorities: the eradication of staleness; establishment of sustainable and quality asylum systems; and collaboration on emergency preparedness.
ResponseCurrently there are 22 Mandate Refugees (and one of “other concern”) in Turkmenistan and 14 in Uzbekistan. Most of the Mandate refugees are originally from Afghanistan. There are no state recognized refugees in these three countries. UNHCR doesn’t expect new asylum applications or any of these state granting refugee status in 2020 or in 2021 given their restrictive border policies.
The largest number of reported stateless persons in Central Asia is in Uzbekistan, with approximately 78,000 stateless, although the numbers may be lower pending the formal confirmation from the Uzbek authorities. Turkmenistan doesn’t officially report on the statelessness numbers in the country, but NGOs operate a figure of about 4,300 persons. However, implementation of recently adopted National Action-Plan may offer some insights into the extent of statelessness in Turkmenistan. UNHCR expects resolution of more cases in Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan mostly through confirmation of citizenship and presidential decrees granting citizenship, as it was the case with both countries in the past.
By 2020, the Office expects a significant reduction of statelessness will have been taken place. Subsequently the focus will shift more towards the prevention efforts, such as advocacy and expert advice for legislative amendments to improve birth registration, citizenship and nationality laws and to ensure adequate safeguards to preclude statelessness in the future.
Under the asylum component, solutions for mandate refugees, including but not limited to naturalization and alternative stay arrangements, will be the focus of the operations along with advocacy with the authorities for unhindered access to the territory and admission into the asylum procedures. UNHCR will offer expert advice and capacity building opportunities to the judiciary, migration and border officials. At the sub-regional level, UNHCR will continue its support to the Almaty Process, an intergovernmental consultative platform in Central Asia, to harmonize asylum systems in Central Asia. More specifically, in 2020, UNHCR through Almaty Process, will advocate for the harmonization of the statistics and data sharing on the asylum applications and implementation of the border referral mechanism.
Towards 2021, UNHCR plans to emphasize the need for greater government ownership, marking the 30th independence anniversaries of the five central Asian countries.
2020 Budget and Expenditure in Central Asia | USD
|Kazakhstan Multi-Country Office||Budget|
2020 Voluntary Contributions to Central Asia | USD
|Earmarking / Donor||Pillar 2
|Central Asia overall|
|United States of America||0||1,100,000||1,100,000|
|Central Asia overall subtotal||0||1,100,000||1,100,000|
|Kazakhstan Multi-Country Office|
|Kazakhstan Multi-Country Office subtotal||0||148,936||148,936|
|United States of America||42,600||0||42,600|