World Refugee Day Remarks by Volker Türk, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

SWITZERLAND UNHCR DISPLACED PEOPLE

Every year on 20th June the world commemorates the strength, the courage and the resilience of millions of refugees. Globally nearly 60 million people have fled their homes to escape conflicts or human rights violations. These people are not just statistics, they are mothers, they are fathers, they are daughters, they are sons, they are sisters, they are brothers. They are also doctors, teachers, farmers or students who led normal lives in their home communities.

This is a special year for the Kyrgyz Republic, as it is the year to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the country acceding to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its protocol. UNHCR is grateful to the people of Kyrgyzstan who have a tradition of generosity towards refugees. You have hosted some 20,000 people fleeing the war in Tajikistan, many of whom were integrated into the local communities and we congratulate you on this achievement.

Through the past two decades, with the support from UNHCR, the government has progressively developed refugee protection institutions including establishing a national refugee law and implementing so-called refugee determining procedures. This is remarkable and very important indeed.

Allow me also to congratulate you on the stability you have achieved in the past six years since the 2010 conflict. UNHCR has provided support to restore destroyed homes and documentation to many Kyrgyz citizens affected by the violence at the time and we have encouraged trust building between communities and the authorities to contribute to peacebuilding in the southern provinces.

Today, in the Kyrgyz Republic there remain 100 refugee families, many of whom speak the local languages and dream of building a normal future in the Kyrgyz Republic. There are young refugees who grew up in the Kyrgyz Republic, one of them is Zarguna Hussain, a young Afghan woman who graduated with distinction from the Kyrgyz State Medical Academy and is working as a physician, helping fellow refugees and others in the Kyrgyz Republic. I sincerely hope that you will provide long term solutions to these families by allowing their stay, allowing them to work legally and supporting them in becoming productive members of the society and contributing to the society. I have no doubt that these young refugees will become very useful members of your communities and contribute to the development of Kyrgyzstan.

For the past 21 years the UN Refugee Agency has been supporting the Kyrgyz government in providing assistance and protection for refugees. We hope that the Kyrgyz Republic will continue to be exemplary in allowing asylum seekers to enter the territory, be it, through individual arrivals or in the event of a large-scale influx and providing international protection to those who are found to be refugees.

I understand well the current heightened security concerns you have in the region but please remember that refugees are often the first victims of violence or terrorism. UNHCR will continue to support the government and the people to help identify those who are in need of international protection and those who are not and to find solutions for their future. On the occasion of the World Refugee Day, I would like to send this special message of thank you to the people and the government of Kyrgyzstan for taking good care of refugees and call on the Kyrgyz people to reach out to these remarkable refugee individuals to help them become part of your community.

Thank you very much.

A statement can be watched here