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Kazakh Refugees Fear Deportation From Czech Republic

Children of Kazakh asylum seekers peek out of their dormitory in Brno, Czech Republic
PRAGUE -- Kazakh refugees who have sought asylum in the Czech Republic because of religious persecution say they might soon be deported back to Kazakhstan.

One refugee, Karat Dosmetov, told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service that 205 refugees from western Kazakhstan and Almat, all Salafi Muslims, arrived in the Czech Republic in 2006, and have unsuccessfully sought asylum for nearly three years.

The refugees say they face persecution for their faith in Kazakhstan, but the Czech authorities consider Kazakhstan to have religious freedom, meaning the Salafi Muslims would have no problems if they returned home.

The Salafi sect is a Sunni Islamic movement that considers the ancestors of early Islam as exemplary models and refuses to recognize other branches of Islam.

Kazakhstan is set to chair the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 2010.