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UNHCR established its presence in the Republic of Kazakhstan in 1995

UNHCR established its presence in the Republic of Kazakhstan in 1995

UNHCR opened its representation in the Republic of Kazakhstan in 1995 to assist the country to protect over ten thousand refugees. The majority of those refugees either naturalized in the Republic of Kazakhstan or returned to their countries. Kazakhstan acceded to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of refugees (“1951 Convention”) and its 1967 Protocol in 1999. Kazakhstan is also a party to major international human rights instruments including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention against Torture (CAT), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and other.

The Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan On Refugees was adopted in December 2009 and entered into force in January 2010. Since then, the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan has taken the full responsibility for Refugee Status Determination.

As of 1 July 2016, 653 men, women and children have been recognized as refugees on an individual basis by the State under the 1951 Convention and the national Refugee Law. Kazakhstan also continues receiving asylum-seekers primarily from Afghanistan and Syria, and very few from other countries. The majority of refugees have been residing in Kazakhstan for over ten years.

UNHCR Kazakhstan aims at supporting the efforts of the Government of Kazakhstan in establishment of a functioning mechanism for referral of asylum-seekers between the border and competent State authorities. It aims at widening the range of rights of Convention refugees to ensure meaningful local integration, mainly through advocacy for the amendment of national legislation. UNHCR actively promotes accession by the Government of Kazakhstan to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and assists the Government in developing and strengthening legal and administrative frameworks aimed at the identification, registration and protection of stateless persons and the prevention and reduction of statelessness.


UNHCR Kazakhstan have identified the following main results and areas for intervention:


  1. Fixing asylum system

Overarching goal: Access to the territory and asylum procedures for all asylum-seekers without discrimination.

Prioritized activities: adoption of a legislative act that establishes a referral mechanism; amendment of asylum related legislation to allow persons without valid identity documents and visa to access the territory and asylum procedure; prevention of instances of refoulement through capacity building exercises for the State officials and advocacy for refugees rights.


  1. Achieving durable solutions for refugees

Overarching goal: 1) Extend access of refugees to the rights through change of status of refugee from temporarily residing foreigner to permanent resident; 2) Access of refugees to naturalization after five-year residence in Kazakhstan.

Prioritized activities: adoption of a legal framework to change the status of refugees from temporary residing foreigners to the status of permanent residents; increase of self-reliance and local integration opportunities for refugees through awareness raising on refugees rights in Kazakhstan.


  1. Reducing and preventing statelessness

Overarching goal:  Reducing and preventing statelessness in Kazakhstan

Prioritized activities: Identification and reduction of existing situation of statelessness; law reforms aimed at prevention of statelessness and increasing data on identification.

With mixed migration coming increasingly to the forefront in Central Asia, UNHCR activities in Kazakhstan aim at the preservation of asylum space within mixed migratory flows. On 5 June 2013, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) co-organized the Ministerial Conference on Refugee Protection and International Migration: The Almaty Process that took place in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The Conference resulted in operationalization of the Almaty Process. The Almaty Process is a regional consultative process on refugee protection and international migration and aims to address the multiple challenges resulting from mixed migration dynamics and enhance regional cooperation and coordination on mixed migration. In 2016, UNHCR will support the countries of the Central Asian Region that are members of the Almaty Process (i.e. Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Republic of Tajikistan and Turkmenistan) in developing the “Regional Guidelines on how to identify and refer asylum seekers and refugees at the borders of Central Asia.” UNHCR Kazakhstan will continue working with the Government of Kazakhstan on developing national legislation on referral of asylum-seekers between the Border Service and the Migration Police in line with the Regional Guidelines and international standards for refugee protection. 

UNHCR works with different governmental institutions on refugee protection and statelessness in Kazakhstan. The main interlocutors are the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Internal Affairs (including the Migration Police Department and its territorial branches), General Prosecutor’s Office, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Health and Social Development, Ministry of Education, Border Guards Service of the National Security Committee, National Commission on Women's Affairs under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan Commission on Human Rights under the President of the Republic, and the Office of the Ombudsman.

UNHCR closely cooperates with regional, international and non-governmental organizations in the region. UNHCR works in close partnership with Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law (BHR), Kazakhstan Red Crescent Society (KRCS), International Association of Social Projects (IASP), the Legal Centre for Women's Initiatives "Sana Sezim". UNHCR partners provide legal counselling, medical and financial assistance, facilitate local integration by ensuring access to education, employment and self-reliance opportunities. 

UNHCR Regional Representation for Central Asia is located in Almaty; UNHCR Country Office is located in Astana, Kazakhstan.