UN Refugee Agency expelled from Uzbekistan

From BBC Online

The UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, says it has been ordered to leave Uzbekistan within one month.

The agency said that on 17 March it received a communique saying its entire office must shut, an order which it told the BBC was “a rare occurrence”. According to the agency, Uzbekistan’s ministry for foreign affairs said the UNHCR, which has been in the country since 1993, had fulfilled its role.

The Uzbek authorities are yet to comment on the decision. According to the UNHCR, the government statement said the agency had “fully implemented its tasks and there are no evident reasons for its further presence in Uzbekistan. With this regard, the ministry requests UNHCR to close its office in Tashkent within one month.”

UNHCR spokesperson Astrid Van Genderen Stort told the BBC the decision “came as a surprise”. She said usually individuals were asked to leave a country rather than an entire office ordered to shut down. UNHCR has two international staff in Uzbekistan.