Posted by: Eirin | October 13, 2009

Outcomes of participatory assessments with stateless persons in the Kyrgyz Republic

Uzbek women UNHCR                                                                                                                                   UNHCR Kyrgyz Republic

Summary Results of Participatory Assessments with Stateless Persons in

the Kyrgyz Republic


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Kyrgyz Republic has been employing Age Gender and Diversity Mainstreaming mechanisms since 2006. These include regular Participatory Assessments (PAs) to better understand the situation and needs of refugees and asylum-seekers and to allow them to actively participate in the design and monitoring of UNHCR-supported policies and projects.[1]

Following a number of surveys conducted in 2007-2008, which identified over 13,000 stateless persons,[2] in the summer of 2009 UNHCR started engaging also stateless persons in PAs.[3] The surveys had covered many questions related to the legal, social and economic situation of stateless persons, including their access to property rights, to the right of having a nationality and personal status, to employment, education, medical and other social services. The objective of the PAs was to review and deepen this understanding by engaging separate age, gender and ethnic groups of stateless persons into an inter-active dialogue on their particular situation and needs.

Age, gender and ethnically segregated focus group discussions were chosen as the most suitable methodology. Due to a sometimes limited numbers of participants some age groups were merged. Focus group discussions took place on 20 July in Issyk-Ata and Sokuluk Districts of Chui Province in the North of Kyrgyzstan and on 7 and 10 August in Aravan and Kara-Suu Districts of Osh Province in the South of Kyrgyzstan.

Available documents and reasons for lack thereof, family relations, employment, access to medical services, social benefits and education were the topics that stateless persons chose as most relevant for these discussions. The following summarizes the general as well as the age/gender/ethnic specific outcomes of these PAs.[4]

All age, gender and ethnic groups considered the lack of valid identity documents as their main problem, because it prevents them from traveling and obtaining marriage or birth certificates. They also have no access to lawful employment and cannot register their immovable property such as land and houses. In addition, they are barred from participating in elections and their access to medical services is restricted. The PAs also revealed that especially women and children suffer from lacking citizenship or personal status, further increasing their vulnerability in their families and communities.

Some ethnic Kyrgyz men in the North quoted loss of old Soviet passports as one reason for being unable to apply for Kyrgyz citizenship. They were concerned that their children would not be able to enter colleges and universities due to the absence of documents, and fear that once grown up, boys will have to work illegally and girls will get married early and without civil registration. They requested help in receiving land and building their houses and would like to be able to work abroad like passport holders.

Ethnic Kyrgyz women in the North, even though they may still possess old Soviet passports, relayed diverse obstacles when applying for a Kyrgyz passport: some have still not de-registered their previous residency in Tajikistan or have hand-written corrections in their passports, some lack residency registration in Kyrgyzstan, others moved from one region of Kyrgyzstan to another. One elderly woman confirmed that she does not receive her pension because she cannot provide a valid passport. Because they are unable to register immovable property, some twelve families live in a former kindergarten in Krasnaya Rechka District. Other women complained that they cannot file for divorce. Medical institutions also demand higher payments for services. Some stateless mothers alleged that maternity hospitals, for instance, demanded payment of around 60 USD (from an average monthly wage of about 100 USD) for their delivery of a baby even though some of their husbands are citizens of Kyrgyzstan.

Children of former Tajik refugees in the North still face problems in receiving Kyrgyz passports if their names were not listed in Presidential Decrees which granted Kyrgyz citizenship to their parents. They bemoaned that many of them do not attend school after third grade but have to help their parents in the field instead, as they cannot afford books, notebooks, shoes, clothes, school fees, etc.

Ethnic Kyrgyz men in the South informed us about many children who failed to receive Kyrgyz passports at the age of 16 because their birth certificates were issued in Tajikistan – despite the fact that their parents already obtained Kyrgyz citizenship.

Most stateless ethnic Kyrgyz women in the South used to have Uzbek passports and got married to Kyrgyz citizens. After they had de-registered their previous residency in Uzbekistan and had their national passports stamped with residency registration (propiska) in Kyrgyzstan, they can no longer extend or receive new Uzbek passports. They do not dare to visit their relatives in Uzbekistan for fear that Uzbek border guards would confiscate their expired passports. Absence of documents also prevents them from establishing small enterprises like sewing workshops. Women feel more vulnerable as they completely depend on their husbands (many of which work in the Russian Federation) and their in-laws, who often take half of the remittances sent by the husband. In case of separation or divorce they are left without any property and livelihood. Their lack of documents also limits their access to maternity hospitals and medical institutions.

Ethnic Uzbek women in the South married to Kyrgyz citizens reported very similar problems. They usually carry expired Uzbek passports and lack the resources to travel to the Uzbek Embassy in Bishkek to request an extension of their validity. Absence of stable sources of income also prevents them from legalizing their stay in the Kyrgyz Republic. Lacking valid passports and fearing problems with border guards, they cannot legally cross the border any longer to visit relatives in Uzbekistan. If they manage to find day-labour, they often do not receive their salaries, as these are paid to their parents-in-law instead. Financially, they thus fully depend on their in-laws. They cannot receive social benefits for their children, and without valid documents, they are even denied access to medical services during delivery. In case of divorce, they are not entitled to any alimony or property and would have no place to live as they do no longer possess the travel documents allowing them to return to Uzbekistan.

UNHCR is most grateful to all the stateless persons who participated in these focus group discussions as well as to the State Committee for Migration and Employment, the Department of Passport and Visa Control of the Ministry of Interior, Counterpart Sheriktesh, Sairon, the Centre for International Protection and the Ferghana Valley Lawyers Without Borders who agreed to nominate staff to together with UNHCR form the multi-functional teams which conducted these participatory assessments.

The Representation of UNHCR in the Kyrgyz Republic

September 2009


We encourage also other colleagues in the field to share their experiences and findings related to participatory assessments with stateless persons.


[1] The UNHCR Tool for Participatory Assessment in Operations, UNHCR Geneva 2006; Accountability Framework for Age, Gender and Diversity Mainstreaming, UNHCR Geneva 2007

[2] “A Place to Call Home”. The Situation of Stateless persons in the Kyrgyz Republic: Findings of Surveys Commissioned by the UNHCR, UNHCR Bishkek 2009

[3] “Stateless persons” in these Summary Results … denotes all individuals who are de jure or de facto stateless, as well as those whose nationality is not established or whose affiliation with any nationality is not properly documented

[4] More detailed information is available from the Representation of UNHCR in the Kyrgyz Republic, UN House, 160 Chui Avenue, Bishkek 720040, Tel: +996-312-611264,



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