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UN Refugee Chief Visits Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan

Antonio Guterres (file) (epa) November 11, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres has arrived in Kyrgyzstan on his first visit to Central Asia since he started as the head of the UN's refugee agency in 2005.

During his stay in Kyrgyzstan, Guterres is scheduled to open the first refugee reception center in Central Asia.

A spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees's (UNHCR) Bishkek office, Ayana Kazybaeva, told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that Guterres was expected to hold his main meetings with Kyrgyz officials on November 12.

Kazybaeva said Guterres would attend the opening ceremony of the refugee reception center along with government officials, before going into meetings with President Kurmanbek Bakiev, Foreign Minister Ednan Karabaev, Prosecutor-General Elmurza Satybaldiev, and Aigul Ryskulova, the chairwoman of the State Committee for Migration and Labor.

At his meeting with Bakiev, the UN high commissioner is expected to thank the government for naturalizing some 9,000 refugees from Tajikistan.

The UNHCR says Kyrgyzstan hosts several hundred refugees and asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

Guterres is due in Kazakhstan on November 13-15, when he plans to meet President Nursultan Nazarbaev and discuss the drafting of national refugee legislation.

The UNHCR says Kazakhstan is host to some 3,700 Chechens from Russia and several hundred people from Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and China who are of concern to the UN agency.

The agency says Guterres plans to visit Tajikistan and Turkmenistan in spring 2008. The agency's office in Uzbekistan was closed by the government in April 2006.

Central Asia In Focus

Central Asia In Focus

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