UNHCR Representation in Tajikistan
UNHCR opened its office in Tajikistan in 1993 following the invitation of the Government to assist the country with emergency relief-related activities aimed at helping internally displaced persons as the result of the civil war. UNHCR also facilitated the peace process and provided support to the National Reconciliation Commission. UNHCR eventually assisted the return of Tajik refugees and their smooth reintegration into society. Activities included large scale reconstruction in Khatlon province, where UNHCR funded the rebuilding of over 25,000 destroyed houses, as well as hospitals, schools, and other key buildings. In addition, UNHCR carried out rehabilitation and reintegration activities for the Tajik returnees.
In 1994, the Republic of Tajikistan became the first Central Asian country to accede to the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees. Ever since, UNHCR has been working with the Government on establishing a reliable asylum system and has provided protection and assistance to refugees. A Statute and Cooperation Agreement was signed in May 2002 between UNHCR and the Tajik Government. The Republic of Tajikistan currently hosts the largest number of refugees in Central Asia, around 3000 asylum seekers and refugees, originating primarily from neighbouring Afghanistan. The country has a National Law on Refugees and Government conducts refugee status determination (RSD). New asylum seeker arrivals have increased in recent years, due to the ongoing political and security situation in Afghanistan. UNHCR continues to work with Government to ensure that its legal framework is in line with international standards, while supporting refugees to locally integrate in their host communities. Greater emphasis has been placed on livelihoods in order that refugees can become independent, contributing members of society.
Under its statelessness mandate, UNHCR in cooperation with the Government of Tajikistan is working on preventing and reducing statelessness. Statelessness in Tajikistan, as with other Central Asian States, has been the by-product of the dissolution of the former Soviet Union; migration, including in the context of the civil war and mixed marriages; gaps in nationality legislation and policy or administrative obstacles preventing the acquisition or confirmation of nationality. Pilot identification and registration projects covering three areas (Khatlon and Sughd provinces, and Tursunzade and Shahrinav districts of Republican Subordination) reveal that 29,502 people (as of December 2017) are of undetermined nationality-although the scale of the issue countrywide remains unknown. Results of the pilot projects further indicate that over 65% of people at risk of statelessness are women, while over 51% of those identified are below 18 years. UNHCR is thus supporting Government through legislative reform, identification and finding solutions for the persons with undetermined nationality and those at risk of statelessness. To date, UNHCR and its partners have assisted 18,952 people in having their nationality confirmed with many more in the pipeline for solutions. In 2017, UNHCR through its partners have assisted some of 3058 most vulnerable persons at risk of statelessness in confirmation of their nationality by providing financial assistance and paying off state fees, administrative and legal costs, as well as transport expenses.
UNHCR’s focus in Tajikistan
1. Supporting the Government in reviewing and harmonising relevant administrative acts and regulations with the National Refugee Law, the 1951 Convention and international refugee protection principles.
2. Ensuring unhindered access to the territory by putting in place protection-sensitive border management and referrals system.
3. Strengthening asylum procedures, notably refugee status determination, through the setting of quality benchmarks, provision of technical support to and capacity building of Government.
4. Coordinating contingency planning and emergency preparedness actions with Government and relevant partners to ensure timely and adequate response in the event of an emergency refugee influx.
5. Providing technical, legal and institution-building support to the Government of Tajikistan to implement existing and new legal provisions, with a view to establishing a normative framework and practice capable of independently resolving the situation of all persons at risk of statelessness.
6. Strengthening the Government’s capacity to independently implement relevant action plans and programmes to achieve solutions for people of undetermined nationality and those at risk of statelessness (confirmation of nationality, residence permits, and citizenship).
7. Prevention of the new cases of statelessness through promotion of birth registration.
MAIN UNHCR ACTIVITIES IN TAJIKISTAN
Strengthening the national asylum system
• Promoting protection-sensitive border management and referral systems through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Border Guards and endorsing Standard Operating Procedures on Referrals, to concretise joint border activities and ensure due access to asylum.
• Including refugee law and protection modules in the curricula of Border Guards, relevant Government ministries and academic courses in order to build capacity of actors involved in asylum. Collaboration with, amongst others, the Border Management Staff College and Human Rights Education Programme is envisaged.
• Providing legal assistance and judicial intervention with regards to asylum. UNHCR is collaborating with Government legal aid clinics and paralegals to further ensure sustainability of assistance.
• Strengthening the asylum and refugee status determination procedures while ensuring safeguards against refoulement and regularisation of the status of mandate refugees.
• Removing administrative barriers to local integration, amongst other by abrogating regulations/resolutions that restrict refugees’ freedom of residence.
• According alternative stay arrangements with pathways to citizenship in order that all refugees can access the fullest range of rights in Tajikistan.
Achieving solutions for refugees
• Mainstreaming of refugees into existing programmes with Government and development actors which target refugees and host populations in the spheres of livelihoods, education and health, whilst implementing small-scale peaceful co-existence projects.
• Organizing structured information sessions, protection counselling and support for refugees considering the option of repatriation.
• Providing legal and administrative assistance to refugees wishing to engage in employment and other income-generation activities.
• Assistance in obtaining solutions to those identified and registered to date 29,502 persons with undetermined nationality and persons at risk of statelessness, and in cooperation with the Government of Tajikistan carry out identification and provision of solutions for the remaining unrevealed part of persons with undetermined citizenship.
• Assistance in adoption of the Amnesty Law, which will remove administrative and criminal liability from identified stateless persons, and will open the path for regularising of their legal statuses.
• Promoting Tajikistan’s accession to the 1954 UN Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on Reduction of Statelessness.
• Ensuring that all children born in Tajikistan have access to birth certificates, regardless of the parents’ identity documents.
Emergency Preparedness for a Refugee Influx
• In coordination with other agencies and actors, strengthening the capacity of Tajik Government to effectively respond to situations of mass influx of refugees in all sectors; WASH, shelter, food and non-food items, health, education etc. in line with international (SPHERE) standards.
• Keeping all relevant actors abreast of the latest developments in Afghanistan through COI trainings, cross border sharing of information and updates.
• Participation in inter-agency working groups on border management
• Joint border guards training activities with other relevant actors
• Participation in REACT (Rapid Emergency Assessment & Coordination Team)
• Ensuring that refugee issues are fully incorporated into the UNDAF and other development programs
• Working jointly with other agencies on gender and HIV/AIDS issues
• Coordinating with UN Agencies and other partners on ensuring that children born in Tajikistan are issued birth certificates and proper documentation
Key Government partners
• Executive Apparatus of the President of the Republic of Tajikistan (Department for Constitutional Guarantees of Citizens’ Rights)
• Ministry of Internal Affairs
• Passport Registration Service within the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Tajikistan (Department for Citizenship and Works with Refugees)
• Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Tajikistan
• Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Tajikistan
• Ministry of Labour, Migration and Employment of Population of the Republic of Tajikistan
• Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Tajikistan
• Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the Republic of Tajikistan
• Ombudsman’s Office of the Republic of Tajikistan
• Committee on Civil Defence and Emergency Situations
Key NGO partners
• Refugee Children and Vulnerable Citizens (RCVC)
• Rights and Prosperity (R&P)
The UNHCR office in Tajikistan also works in close cooperation with the international community, including the UN family, local and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), civil society and the wider diplomatic community.