UNHCR Reports 200,000 Displaced; 75,000 Refugees; Uzbek Police Blocking Camps
Uzbekistan has begun blocking refugees inside tent camps and is preventing them from leaving to stay with relatives, 24.kg and ferghana.ru reported. Police in Andijan region in Uzbekistan who have been providing protection for refugees arriving from Osh region in neighboring Kyrgyzstan are now harshly preventing their efforts to contact their relatives, say the independent media outlets.
In the first few days of unrest, Uzbek authorities made a decision to open the border to let in the flood of refugees, and after checking documents and registering them, allowed them to lodge with relatives and friends in nearby Uzbek villages. "More than 60 pecent were lodged in the homes of relatives in Uzbekistan," an unidentified policeman guiding a tent camp told ferghana.ru. But starting today, refugees were being forced to go under guard to the camps and stay there. Police referenced "orders from above," which appear to have been motivated by a wish to get an accurate count of the refugees and not permit chaotic resettlement outside government control.
Relief workers are estimating the number of internally-displaced persons (IDPs) at 200,000 now, says Andrej Mahecic, press secretary of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 24.kg reported, citing ITAR-TASS.. A surge in violence on June 10 led to "displacement of 200,000 people inside [Kyrgyzstan] and an additional 75,000 people who have sought refuge in Uzbekistan." Mahecic cautioned that the situation was constantly changing and people continued to pour over the border. UNICEF said that the number of refugees inside Uzbekistan had reached 100,000.
UNHCR is preparing a relief plane with 40 tons of supplies to take off from Dubai tomorrow bound for Andijan in Uzbekistan. Five more flights are planned later in the week.
Urgent needs include food, medicine and shelter and we need better security to ensure the safety of humanitarian staff and goods. Some food and health aid is being delivered already, but not enough aid is getting through. There are reports that displaced people near the border may be short of water and that those made homeless by violence may be without shelter," Mahecic said.
Lynn Pascoe, the UN undersecretary-general for political affairs called for a corridor to be created for aid delivery in Kyrgyzstan as five days of deadly violence have made it difficult to care for victims, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported. He said Uzbekistan will need international assistance to cope with the flow of refugees.
Ethnic Uzbeks and some international aid officials say the death toll is a gross underestimation. Pierre-Emmanuel Ducruet, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Osh, said the figure could be 700 dead just in Osh, based on inspections of the city’s morgues, the New York Times reports.
Ducruet said while the situation in Osh appeared more calm, many homes are burned, and he believed many people are still staying in their homes and are scared to leave.
There seemed to be a number of wounded among the refugees. I saw roughly 40 men with gunshot wounds. Two mothers told me they had lost their children in the chaos," said François Blancy, the ICRC's deputy head of regional delegation in Tashkent. "People are in a state of shock. Some spoke of homes burning with children inside and the ICRC is clearly worried about the accounts we're hearing of extremely brutal violence."
Some refugees have begun to return to their homes, say Kyrgyz authorities. A group of 75 returned to Bazar-Korgon district of Jalal-Abad, Joomart Saparbayev, an aide to the interim government reported. He said meetings had been held with local citizens to initiate talks between representatives of the Uzbek and Kyrgyz communities and the situation was being monitored. He said Osh was more calm and police checkpoints had been put in place leading in and out of the city.
Roza Otunbayeva, head of the interim government, said that so far, President Islam Karimov has kept to his promise not to send military forces into Kyrgyzstan.