The evacuation, which occurred July 29, was facilitated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration. In all, 439 Uzbeks were brought to temporary living quarters in Romania, where they are expected to spend at least several months before moving on to permanent destinations. Canada, for example, has pledged to accept 50 Uzbeks. The refugees fled to Kyrgyzstan following the May 13-14 Andijan events. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
Tashkent had pressed Kyrgyzstan for the return of all the refugees. Some of the refugees told EurasiaNet that they feared for their safety if forced to return to their homeland. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Kyrgyzstan consented to sending the refugees to Romania after reportedly coming under heavy US diplomatic pressure.
The Uzbek statement characterized the evacuation as "unacceptable and outside interference" in Uzbekistan's bilateral relationship with Kyrgyzstan. The evacuation underscored that "external forces" are continuing to wage "an undeclared information war" on Uzbekistan, the Foreign Ministry statement continued. It added that the international community exerted "unprecedented pressure" on Bishkek to send the refugees to a third country.
"The Uzbek side sees no need for such evacuation because, given the number of the moved Uzbek citizens in Kyrgyzstan, the people did not pose any threat of destabilization in the area of the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border," the statement claimed. "No charges have been brought against these people by Uzbek authorities; they have not been persecuted or put under pressure."
The statement claimed that the evacuation violated the 1951 United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.
Among those evacuated to Romania were 14 of 29 individuals held at a detention center in Osh on suspicion of criminal activity. The remaining 15 still in the Osh facility will be sent back to Uzbekistan, Kyrgyz officials announced August 1. Nurlan Jeenaliyev, a top official in the Kyrgyz Prosecutor-General's office, told journalists that there existed "reliable evidence" linking the 15 detainees to "serious crimes." Four of the 15, according to Jeenaliyev, were involved in committing terrorist acts and murder during the Andijan events. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
The announced intention of Kyrgyzstan to return the 15 detainees to Uzbekistan sets up a potential showdown with the United States and UNHCR, which has designated 11 of the 15 as refugees.
The US Embassy in Bishkek issued a statement August 1 that called on Kyrgyzstan to "protect the rights" of the remaining refugees. The 15 detainees, the embassy statement added, should be sent to a third country "for further resettlement procedures."