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UN Says CIS Countries Unable To Deal With Refugees

  • Sonia Winter



Washington, May 7 (RFE/RL) - Most countries of the former Soviet Union have developed policies and programs to deal with refugees and displaced persons. But in many cases, they remain only words on paper.

A United Nations study finds that the former Soviet republics lack not only the resources but also the experience to cope with migration and refugee-related problems and very few have appropriate national legislation.

The report was compiled earlier this year for a U.N. conference on refugees and migrants in the Commonwealth of Independent States to be held in Geneva at the end of the month. It shows many countries pursue strategies and priorities aimed selectively at caring for and rehabilitating only refugees of native origin.

In Kazakhstan, according to the report, migration policy focuses on stemming the emigration of Russian speakers and repatriating ethnic Kazakhs.

Tajikistan gives top priority to reintegrating returning Tajik refugees who are regarded as the key to restarting the war-ravaged economy.

Georgia allocates plots of land and tries to create conditions to transform temporary refugee residences into locally integrated permanent resettlement.

But the report says generally the local integration of refugees is a problem, partly because most CIS governments still maintain control over internal travel and living."

It says "existing regulations that restrict freedom of movement and choice of place of residence constitute a major obstacle to the successful local integration of refugees and displaced persons."

The report says Azerbaijan's aim is to ensure the return of all refugees and displaced people to their original permanent places of residence.

Armenia focuses on the repatriation of refugees from the Nagorno-Karabakh region and other ethnic Armenians who fled neighboring Azerbaijan.

Moldova gives priority to ethnic Moldovans and favors family reunification.

Ukraine is working on a comprehensive plan called "Diaspora" to address the repatriation of exiles.

Russia's migration policy includes a provision allowing forced resettlement of refugees and controls to prevent illegal immigration.

The U.N. report says major common problems in the Commonwealth states are a lack of housing, schools and jobs and often a reluctance on the part of local authorities to do anything for refugees.

The report says that especially in Russia and Kazakhstan, "often local authorities refuse to resettle refugees even temporarily, in view of the existing socio-economic problems."

It says this attitude is aggravated by "insufficient action from governmental authorities to restrain xenophobia, as well as to define clearly the competence of the federal and local authorities in migration matters."

According to the report, few of the CIS countries have adopted national legislation on refugees and even the handful that has refugee laws in place is unable to implement them.

The U.N. report says "as yet, none of the countries possesses sufficient institutional capacity to fully translate the national and international laws into consistent everyday practice."

Consequently, asylum-seekers from outside the region have no legal status and no social or economic rights.

The report says most of the countries believe the solution to their refugee and migration problems lies in a regional approach "not only at the CIS level but also between the CIS and its neighbors."

It says a number of countries want to enter into bilateral and multilateral agreements to regulate the entry and exit of foreigners, protect national minorities, prevent illegal migration and a host of related issues.

Some countries have already done so. The report says Russia has agreements with half a dozen CIS countries on, among other things, the property rights of resettlers, labor migration and visa-free travel.

The report says some agreements were signed by the governments concerned already three or four years ago but few have been ratified by national parliaments and begun to be implemented.

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