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Afghan Refugees Picket UN, Demand Kyrgyz Citizenship

BISHKEK -- About a dozen Afghan refugees have picketed the UN office in Bishkek, demanding a simplification of procedures to obtain Kyrgyz citizenship.

UN official Kiyalbek Temishov met with the demonstrators on December 16 and explained that the issue of Kyrgyz citizenship can only be solved by Kyrgyzstan's State Commission for Citizenship, not the United Nations.

UN representatives in Bishkek told RFE/RL that the protesters had vowed to continue their picket until they receive Kyrgyz citizenship.

According to the UN's refugee agency, some 10,000 refugees have arrived in Kyrgyzstan over the last 15 years hoping to obtain citizenship.

Some 80 percent were from Afghanistan. Only 96 Afghan refugees have obtained Kyrgyz citizenship since 1996.