The website for critical discussion about migration in Central and Eastern Europe.
21. 7. 09
Zdroj: migrationonline.cz

Families of refugees from Kazakhstan are threatened with deportation in the Czech Republic

An open letter to Jacques Barrot, Vice-president of the European, written by Association Droit de l’Homme en Asie Centrale (Association for Human Rights in Central Asia), concerning the situation of Kazakh refugees in the Czech Republic and Slovenia. While facing persecution in Kazakhstan by the state authorities for their religious beliefs, the two European states are inclined to dismiss their asylum applications and threaten them with deportation. The letter presents a particular case of a refugee affected by the situation, the history of refugee flows from Kazakhstan, comments on the situation in the Czech Republic and the threats connected with the refugees’ return to Kazakhstan.

Mr. Commissioner,

We are very much concerned with the situation of Kazakh refugees at the moment residing in Czech Republic and the Republic of Slovenia. We are earnestly requesting you to treat he existing situation with attention. The matter concerns many dozens of asylum seekers, citizens of Kazakhstan. In our list there are 222 persons of them, 54 are underage, and were born in emigration. Many members of this group are each other's relatives. All these people had to flee their home country for one and the same reason — Kazakh authorities started persecuting them and the members of their families for their religious beliefs, and under the pretext of fighting religious extremism committed gross violations of these people's rights to the freedom of conscience, freedom of religious belief and freedom of speech. Migration and judicial bodies of Czech Republic and Slovenia have already dismissed asylum applications of many of them. When a threat of deportation appeared, a few families left for Austria, France, the Netherlands and other countries of the European Union, hoping they could thus escape forced return to Kazakhstan.

At present citizen of Kazakhstan Bauyrzhan Imangaliev is awaiting deportation in a refugee camp «Bella Jezova» together with his pregnant wife and two small children. In Kazakhstan he was subjected to persecution on the part of the authorities for religious reasons. The Czech republic insists on his and his family's forced return to his country of origin, considering the fears of the asylum seeker unfounded. The conclusions of the migration service of the Czech Republic, which made a decision on his deportation, obviously do take into account the fact that his four associates, who stayed in Kazakhstan, were imprisoned under falsified charges, and a few more are living in a constant waiting for arrest. Simultaneously with Bauyrzhan Imangaliev 50 families and 6 single persons had to leave from Western Kazakhstan for the CIS and Western European countries. Only one family returned, and in accordance with the information from the “Human rights in Central Asia'” Association, the persecution of this family by the authorities resumed.

Refugees' history

Starting with the 90-ties of the last century some groups of Muslims organized independent communities, not controlled by the “official” religious structures in Western Kazakhstan. The reason for this was the resistance of the believers to incorporating state political propaganda into religion, which is a wide-spread practice in “official” mosques, controlled by the power structures. However, persons, observing religious rituals not in official mosques but, for instance, at their place, in the company of their close people, immediately attracted keen attention of the law enforcement. Firstly, watch was set up for bearded men and women wearing a headscarf. Under various pretexts they were fired from work, their neighbors were strongly advised not to interact with them. Attempts of the believers to get together, even in on holidays, led to their detention, bringing to a police department and forced fringerprinting.

Repressions only reinforced religious moods in Western Kazakhstan, especially in the cities of Atyrau and Zhanaozen, where religious communities of votaries of Islam segregated from the state propaganda were forced. As soon as the number of people in the community reached 50 (100 in the official data), a wave of arrests came.

At the end of 1999 and beginning of 2000 persecution of this category of persons intensified. According to the persecuted, the authorities wanted to thus prevent the community of believers from a formal registration as a religious organization. However, its members, not willing to mingle religious with state propaganda, did not want to become part of Muslim Spiritual Leadership of Kazakhstan, embracing all officially registered Muslim religious organizations in the country.

In accordance with its obligations Kazakhstan can not openly persecute its citizens for their religious beliefs, that is why the fight against the unwanted is conducted with the help of falsifying charges. Law enforcement started planting drugs and weapons on the most active part of the above mentioned religious community, which allowed for holding them criminally liable. Arrested were subjected to cruel treatment with a view to extort confessions against themselves and other members of the community.

First of all arrests affected imams, as well as entrepreneurs, who donated part of their income to the needs of the community members. In 2001 Genzhetay Karabalaev, born in 1976 in the village of Leninsky of Tashauz region of Turkmenistan, was arrested. The same year imam of the community in Zhanaozen Berik Kyzanbaev was arrested. He was replaced by Nurasyl Artykbaev, who was also detained soon; the next imam, without waiting for the arrest, left the country. The situation developed in a similar way in the city of Aktau: imams Amanzhol Mambetov and Adilzhan Muzdybaev at present are in prison, and their heir had to emigrate in 2006. 14 active members of this community were convicted, 4 of them are in prison, 2 of the 4 were imprisoned in 2007 and 2009 respectively. 222 persons emigrated to the EU and CIS countries.

Situation in Czech Republic

The greater part of refugees, related to this community, arrived in Czech Republic from Kazakhstan in December 2006. All the members of the group immediately applied to the Czech authorities for asylum. The interview of the refugees by the representative of the Association “Human Rights in Central Asia” revealed that these people had no idea about their rights and followed the advice of the social workers assigned to them, trusting the latter.

The first interview with the refugees was conducted by the officials of Migration Service of Czech Republic (OAMP MV CR[1]) with the help of the translator from Czech to Russian. The answers of refugees were put down in Czech. Only in the course of appealing against the refusals delivered by the first instance, many asylum seekers understood that negative decisions were delivered on the basis of the information having nothing to do with the contents of their answers during the first interview – to such an extent the information submitted was distorted with translation.

During repeated meetings with the migration officials many refugees were subjected to rude treatment; they were often asked questions hurting their human dignity, ethnic and religious feelings.

All attempts to appeal against unreliable information in the case files of refugees because of inaccurate translation into Czech are systematically dismissed by courts. Applications of the refugees with the migration bodies about procedural violations are considered not in an objective way. Representatives of UNHCR partner organizations are quite passive in their attitude to the situation of these people. According to refugees, while the case was considered, social workers repeatedly told them that “Czech Republic does not need so many Muslim”, and that is why they will never see a positive decision.

As a result more than 100 refugees, including small children, are deprived of medical assistance, many have nowhere to live and do not receive any allowances. They are ordered to leave the Czech Republic without a right to file a new application.

Threats connected with return

Kazakh authorities know th names of asylum seekers very well, since Czech national legislation demands informing a foreign state about its citizen abroad giving birth to children. Thus Kazakh law enforcement agencies know about refugees who applied for asylum in Czech Republic and are waiting for their return. The relatives of the refugees from this group, who stayed in Kazakhstan, repeatedly confirmed this fact: representatives of the security service started visiting them more and more often and told in a threatening tone, that it would be better for refugees themselves if the latter returned themselves.

Persecuting the members of the community, Kazakh authorities classify the latter as “Wahabbis”, “Salafits”, members of the sect “Pure Islam”, thus ranking them among the supporters of radical Islamic movements.

In this context it is necessary to take into account that the so-called “Salafiya” was included in the list of organizations recognized as terrorist and extremist in the countries of the Collective Security Agreement (ODKB)[2]. This fact in itself provides grounds to assume that in case of refugees' return to Kazakhstan they are subjected to a real threat. They are unlikely to be able to defend their constitutional rights in Kazakh conditions. It is most likely that they will, just like their like-minded people, will find themselves imprisoned under falsified charges.

In his latest letter to the Association “Human Rights in Central Asia” applicant Imangaliev, awaiting deportation from Czech Republic to Kazakhstan, wrote to us in despair: «If I have to give testimony under tortures, I in advance apologize to those whom I might mention. I am thankful to Czech Republic for temporary shelter and I am sorry my asylum application was interpreted in the wrong way. A true believer can never wish anything bad to another person. I was asking for asylum for the sake of life and my children. I asked, I did not demand. I wish you peace in this and any other life. »

Mr. Commissioner,

We are earnestly requesting you to try to suspend forced return of Bauyrzhan Imangaliev and do your best to help review the cases of this group of applicants. We think it unacceptable to persecute a person for religious practices and observance of rituals in a private setting. The proof of biased and rude attitude of the law enforcement of Kazakhstan towards this group of Muslims are the visible traces of torture and other kinds of physical violence on the bodies of some of them. The situation described by is based on the results of individual interviewing of applications, documents collected, information from human rights defenders and independent journalists.

We are requesting you, Mr. Commissioner, to pay keen attention to the problem of violation of the freedom of conscience of the citizens in Kazakhstan in the “Dialogue on Human Rights” and the existing program “EC Initiative on the Rule of Law” within the framework of the adopted Strategy of the European Union on active cooperation with the countries of Central Asia.

We would love to hope, that you will express concern about the fate of these citizens of Kazakhstan, and that the governments of the Czech Republic and the Republic of Slovenia  will conscientiously observe the obligations under international and European agreements in the field of human rights, and that a legal conflict, because of which the Czech Republic violates confidentiality regime for asylum seekers in terms of the information about on the whereabouts of asylum seekers, will be abolished.   

Sincerely yours,

Nadejda Atayeva

President of the Association “Human Rights in Central Asia”

Evgeniy Zhovtis,

Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law, Kazakhstan

Tel.: + 7 7272 254271; E-mail: zhovtis@bureau.kz

A laureate of the following international prizes:

The 1998 European Union and USA Award for Contribution in Promotion of Democracy and Civil Society in Kazakhstan; The 1999 International League for Human Rights Award ; The 2005 International Helsinki Federation Recognition Award ; The 2007 Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Human Rights Award

Mutabar Tajibayeva

Leader of the Human Rights Organization “Klub Plamennih Serdets”, Uzbekistan

Tel.:+33 647417248; E-mail: mutabartadjibaeva@gmail.com

A laureate of the following international prizes:

The Martin Ennals prize, November 2008; a medal of the French Republic “For Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood”, December 2008, and a medal of the US Department of State “To a woman for exceptional courage”, March 2009.

[1] Department for Asylum and Migration Policy, Ministry of the Interior of the Czech Republic - OAMP MV CR. 

[2] ODKB – Organization of the Treaty on Collective Security — a regional agreement in the field of cooperation in the fight against terrorism, extremism, organized crime; military and political alliance. The permanent members as of now are Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan.

21. 7. 09
Zdroj: migrationonline.cz
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