NPR logo On Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan Border, Refugee Crisis Worsens


On Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan Border, Refugee Crisis Worsens

An ethnic Uzbek mother holds her daughter at the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border, south of Osh. Viktor Drachev/AFP hide caption

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Viktor Drachev/AFP

There are scenes of desperation along the border between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan today, NPR's David Greene reports.

Thousands of refugees from Kyrgyzstan — mostly ethnic Uzbeks — are still amassing along the border, which has been closed by the Uzbek government.  They are fleeing days of devastating ethnic violence.

Abdulla Aripow, Uzbekistan's deputy prime minister, expressed regret that his government had to seal the border to refugees, but for now, he said, "we have no place to accommodate them, and no capacity to cope with them."

According to Greene, there have been wildly different estimates of the number of refugees.

The Uzbek government says it has already registered 45,000 newcomers, and that as many as a hundred thousand are waiting at the border.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says several dozen refugee camps in Uzbekistan have been overwhelmed.

The scene at the border is grim.  Some refugees have gunshot wounds.  Women have reported being raped.

Dmitry Medvedev called the bloodshed "intolerable," but so far, the Kremlin has taken a cautious approach.  It hasn't fulfilled Kyrgyzstan's request for peacekeeping troops.

The violence began Thursday, when gangs of Kyrgyz men began systematically targeting minority Uzbeks in a region that has seen bursts of ethnic violence in the past.  But this is the worst in 20 years.

The government blames former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev for stoking ethnic violence, to undermine the government that replaced him.

According to the BBC and The Christian Science Monitor, British authorities have arrested Bakiyev's son on corruption charges.