UNHCR continues to urge for reconciliation and sustainable returns to Kyrgyzstan
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees AntÃ³nio Guterres finished his visit to southern Kyrgyzstan last week by meeting returned refugees and victims of conflict in the city of Jalalabad. Guterres met families who had returned to their burnt out homes and were living in tents provided by UNHCR. They had begun to clear debris and rubble from their homes but had a number of concerns including the coming winter.
Many appealed for better security and spoke of feeling unsafe and too afraid to allow their children outside. Others were concerned about having lost personal documents and their difficulties in replacing them. "We want peace and our houses rebuilt," one resident said. "We want safety for our children, especially our sons, who are young men, so they can go outside and work," said another.
Guterres also visited parts of Jalalabad inhabited by ethnic Krygyz victims of last month's violence, including some whose businesses had been burned down.
UNHCR has been working with the authorities to address the needs of people displaced by violence providing more than 300 tonnes of emergency assistance through relief flights, working with the concerned governments and local partners in sometimes hazardous conditions. Although UNHCR welcomes the return of refugees and displaced people to their homes these should be voluntary and in conditions of safety and dignity. Authorities and communes should refrain from demanding returns against the will of refugees and other displaced people.
Returnees need access to humanitarian help to enable sustainable reintegration. Voluntary returns should therefore focus on areas that humanitarian agencies have access to.