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Kyrgyzstan still refusing to hand over refugees to Uzbekistan

15:13 22/08/2005

MOSCOW, August 22 (RIA Novosti) - Kyrgyzstan does not intend to hand over refugees who fled Uzbekistan after the Andijan uprising, a Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry official said.

Zafar Hakimov, director of the Foreign Ministry's migration service department, said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had granted asylum status to 439 of the 455 Uzbek refugees who fled to Kyrgyzstan and have since been transferred to Romania. The remaining 15 Uzbek refugees are being detained in the southern Kyrgyz town of Osh. Four of them have not been granted asylum status because they have been charged with the murder of Andijan's prosecutor general and are awaiting trial, Hakimov said.

Sweden, the Netherlands, and Finland offered to host 11 of the refugees, and one refugee decided to stay in Osh under UNHCR protection for personal reasons.

Sergei Ivanchenko, deputy director of the Uzbek Foreign Ministry's consular department, said Uzbekistan believed Kyrgyzstan would return the criminals who have been accused of crimes, demanding that only the 15 refugees currently being held in Osh be handed over. "They are criminals," Ivanchenko said. "According to international law, we are waiting for Kyrgyzstan to return them."

The Uzbek government claims 176 people were killed and 295 wounded in the violence in Andijan on May 13.

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