Afghan refugees living in Tajikistan are calling on the Tajik government and international organisations to protect them after reported pressure on Afghans in Dushanbe to move to their places of registration outside the capital.
“My son was detained last night at 11pm by a policeman and then put under arrest,” Guloba, a woman about 45 sitting with a group of some 50 Afghan refugees in front of the local Human Rights and Protection non-governmental organisation (NGO) office in Dushanbe, told IRIN on 15 June.
According to the group of Afghan refugees, Tajik policemen are chasing them out of Dushanbe and sending them back to the districts and villages where they are registered.
The group said refugees who came to Tajikistan during the civil war in Afghanistan were registered in Dushanbe. But those who had arrived in the past two years had all been registered in districts outside the capital.
“We cannot live in the districts; we simply cannot survive there. Even local Tajiks themselves are leaving rural areas and migrating to Russia and the capital to earn money,” said Khayri, a middle-aged Afghan refugee woman.
|We cannot live in the districts; we simply cannot survive there.|
“We cannot afford to travel to the capital every day. My son makes eight somoni [US$2.32] per day. That is not enough to travel daily to Dushanbe and back and support the entire family with food,” Khayri added.
According to Human Rights and Protection, there are about 1, 300 Afghan refugees in Tajikistan.
Tajik officials respond
Tajik foreign ministry officials told IRIN there was no change in the lives of the refugees.
“There has been a simple passport-checking operation in the city for a month now - run by the security services. Anyone registered as resident in other parts of the country but working in the city is facing these check-ups, including Tajik citizens,” Davlatali Nazriev, head of the ministry’s press centre, said.
“There isn’t any [new] government policy or law regarding refugees,” Nazriev said.
Afghan shops closed
“Our children cannot read Russian or Tajik. The only school for Afghans is in Dushanbe,” said Nuriya, a 35-years-old female refugee.
“Most of us are female-headed families. We cannot go back to Afghanistan. Our lives are in danger there. And now, we are facing problems here as well,” Nuriya added.
Some Afghan refugees who make their living in Dushanbe running small shops said their shops had been closed.
|The government should assist and be friendly to refugees.|
Payomi Furug, human dimension officer with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Tajikistan, said there had been no official statements regarding refugees. “So we don’t know the real reasons behind this.”
“The government should assist and be friendly to refugees. The OSCE has not taken any specific action up till now. If necessary we could embark upon a dialogue and see what happens,” Furug said.
Zarrina Halikova, director of the local NGO Training and Support Centre, said the registration period of most Afghans had expired. “So it is those without refugee status, citizenship or registration that are facing these problems,” Halikova said.
The office of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is reportedly negotiating with the authorities on the issue.