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New Group Of Andijon Refugees Headed Home

August 23, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Forty-one Andijon refugees are preparing to return home after spending several months in the United States, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.

The returnees were due to board an Uzbekistan Airways (Ozbekiston Havo Yollari) flight today at New York's JFK Airport. They are expected back in the Uzbek capital on August 25.

Bahadir Fayiz, a Pennsylvania-based Uzbek emigre who is in close contact with many of the 150 Andijon refugees resettled in the United States by the United Nations in 2005, told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service that four of them have refused to return home after relatives warned them they would not be safe in Uzbekistan.

A group of 12 Andijon refugees returned from the United States in mid-July, reportedly with safety guarantees from Uzbek officials. They have since appeared on Uzbek state television to say they were happy to be home.

Rights groups suspected the refugees were duped or forced into returning, although no evidence of such treatment has emerged.

Rights advocates have expressed skepticism that Uzbek authorities would make good on safety pledges.