The International Observatory on Statelessness

Kyrgyzstan

The estimated number of stateless persons in the country now ranges from 50,000 to as many as 100,000, but as part of the 2009 census, the State Committee on Migration in coordination with UNHCR will undertake a survey on statelessness. In 2007, the government of Kyrgyzstan naturalized 9,000 ethnic Kyrgyz who fled Tajikistan during its civil war.

Kyrgyzstan’s problems with statelessness began with implementation of its citizenship law in 1994, which provided automatic citizenship for all those living on the territory at the time. For everyone else who had no propiska, or registration of residence, citizenship would have to be gained. The application process was so complicated that many individuals avoided it, citing numerous forms, a lengthy and inconsistent list of requirements, delays, and bribery. Another problem lay in the requirement that applicants first renounce their current citizenship, but this obligation has recently been amended. Additionally, until the law on citizenship was updated in 2007, only children of citizen fathers became citizens at birth. All others, despite being born on Kyrgyz soil or to Kyrgyz mothers, had to apply for it.

Ten to 30 percent of the people in border regions reportedly have no papers. The largest of these groups of people is from Uzbekistan. The state generally refuses to recognize Uzbek asylum seekers as refugees, leaving these individuals at risk of statelessness. Refugees hide in fear of abduction by Uzbek secret service agents working on Kyrgyz soil and in cooperation with Kyrgyz law enforcement agencies.

Uzbeks living in Kyrgyzstan have little hope of being welcome again in Uzbekistan if their attempts at gaining citizenship ultimately fail. Other Uzbeks who have married Kyrgyz citizens in a region that for decades was unified until artificially severed by post-Soviet borders face a prolonged application process. However, an Uzbek citizen cannot renew a passport while officially residing in Kyrgyzstan and must choose between returning to Uzbekistan and registering there as a resident or remaining in Kyrgyzstan with expired documents.

Kyrgyzstan does not recognize Chechens as refugees because it fears straining its relations with Russia. Some Uighur refugees—an ethnic group persecuted in China—also remain unrecognized.