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Kazakhstan: Almaty Deports Hundreds Of Foreign Nationals

(RFE/RL) Almaty city police have deported hundreds of Kyrgyz, Uzbek, and Tajik nationals in an operation that began on 27 November. Many of the deportees said they had been working in Kazakhstan legally for months or even years, often as businesspeople in Almaty's central bazaar. Kazakh authorities said the deportees are mainly illegal workers at construction sites.

29 November 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The largest known group of foreign nationals deported in recent days from Kazakhstan are Kyrgyz citizens.

Aziza Abdirasulova, a member of the Kyrgyz nongovernmental group Kylym Shamy, said that 215 Kyrgyz nationals were arrested and deported by the Almaty city police on 27 November. She said the deportees were legally working in Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city.

Scores of the Kyrgyz deportees protested in Bishkek on Monday, demanding action from their government.

Other deportees reportedly include people from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. It is impossible to know their numbers, however, because they have lodged no protests in their home countries.

Eshengul is a young Kyrgyz woman who works as a trader at the central market in Almaty. She described what happened on 27 November this way.

"They do not give us annual residence permits any more, we have three-month permits now," she said. "But even those who had such three-month permits were taken away by police. They all had proper documents and permits. Just among those whom I know personally, five or six were deported. There were two or three 'Gazel' trucks full of the detained Kyrgyz traders. People who came from Bishkek yesterday say that the Qorday customs point [on the Kazakh-Kyrgyz border] is overcrowded with deported Kyrgyz people."

Official Point Of View

Kazakh officials give a different account of the events.

Arman Zhusanbay, spokesman for the Almaty Interior Affairs Department, told RFE/RL that most of the people deported from Kazakhstan were illegally in the country.

"Among those deportees, 43 persons were Tajik citizens, 108 [were] persons from other 'near abroad' [former Soviet republics], of whom 50 are Uzbek nationals," Zhusanbay said. "All of them have been deported due to the decisions of the local administrative court. Among them is one Turkish citizen, one Chinese citizen, and eight are Kyrgyz citizens. Those are people who have been mainly working at construction sites here without proper documentation and visas. They were deported."

The Kazakh official put the total number of deportees at 211. He said they are among some 546 foreign nationals detained in Almaty City since 27 November.

Chaotic Affairs

Some of those who have witnessed the arrests and deportations said they were erratic affairs.

One Tajik trader in the central market told RFE/RL privately that many Tajiks escaped arrest by offering bribes to the policemen.

"The police surrounded the traders from all sides. About 70 Tajik traders were detained," the trader said. "Later on, about 40 of them were taken away; others escaped such a fate thanks to money they offered to the police as bribes."

Kazakh official Zhusanbay denied such statements. He told RFE/RL that the case of each detained individual was thoroughly reviewed by the administrative court before the deportations were carried out.

"Only those whose documents were found improper have been deported. Every case was studied meticulously," Zhusanbay said. "If a person is living and working in our country legally with proper documents and contracts, he or she should not have any problems. But if the person is living illegally he or she must be deported. This has nothing to do with the elections."

Kazakhstan's presidential poll -- essentially pitting long-time incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbaev against four challengers -- is scheduled for 4 December.

Zhusanbay said the campaign against what he called illegal migration began on 26 October and will last until 2 December.

Analysts said that the current deportation campaign differs from previous operations because it was not publicly announced in advance. In the past, prior announcement has given employers and foreign nationals time to check that all papers, visas, and permits are in order.

(RFE/RL's Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Tajik services contributed to this report.)

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