‘Tenacious’ Kyrgyz lawyer and statelessness champion, wins prestigious UNHCR prize

© UNHCR/Chris de Bode Azizbek Ashurov, Director of Kyrgyzstan-based Ferghana Valley Lawyers Without Borders, has been named 2019 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award Winner for 2019.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


A rights lawyer who took to horseback to help more than 10,000 stateless people gain nationality in Kyrgystan after the break-up of the Soviet Union, has been awarded the UN refugee agency’s prestigious 2019 Nansen Refugee Award.

“Azizbek Ashurov’s story is one of great personal resolve and tenacity,” said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees on Tuesday, hailing Mr. Ashurov as an example of the “power of an individual to inspire and mobilize collective action”.

Speaking to journalists in Geneva, the UNHCR laureate described his family’s difficulties in gaining citizenship in Kyrgystan after moving from Uzbekistan following the dissolution of the USSR in 1991.

Despite his legal training, Mr. Ashurov admitted finding the administrative hurdles involved in becoming a Kyrgyz national a significant barrier.

“I realised that if it was this difficult for me – with my education and as a lawyer – then imagine how hard it must be for an ordinary person”, he said.

After helping to set up an association offering free legal advice to displaced and undocumented people in southern Krygystan, Mr. Ashurov supported his Government’s bid to become the first country in the world to end statelessness.

Key measures included the authorities’ decision to cancel all fines for people whose status was irregular, he said.

“Most of the stateless people are illegal, invisible, that’s why they are afraid to show themselves, because they can be deported or fined,” he said. “So, the Government helped us with their amnesty.”

Mobile legal teams ‘travelled on horseback’

Another successful initiative in overcoming statelessness was the association’s creation of mobile legal teams which travelled to remote mountainous areas in search of marginalized groups, on horseback where necessary.

“People who came to our mobile desks, we informed them there were no fines (and) it was a chance for them to legalize their status in the country,” Mr. Ashurov explained, likening stateless people to “ghosts – they exist physically, but they don’t exist on paper”.

Outside Kyrgyzstan, a number of States in the wider region have started anti-statelessness campaigns which have led to more than 34,500 cases successfully resolved to date.

“Our role in reducing statelessness is to help people do what they cannot do themselves,” Mr. Ashurov explained. “We don’t give them citizenship, we give them back a right that they should have had from birth.”

According to UNHCR, statelessness affects millions of people worldwide.

It deprives them of legal rights or basic services and leaving them politically and economically marginalized, discriminated against and particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

Since UNHCR launched a 10-year campaign to end statelessness globally in 2014, Mr. Grandi said that 220,000 stateless people had secured a nationality, while around 15 Member States had adopted one of two international treaties banning statelessness.

While this was “clearly not enough” progress, the UNHCR chief noted that he expected more countries to put their names to the global accords at a High-Level intergovernmental meeting in Geneva on Monday.

Who was Nansen?

UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award honours extraordinary service to the forcibly displaced.

The award is named after Fridtjof Nansen, the League of Nations’ first High Commissioner for Refugees, from 1920-1930. The League was the forerunner of the UN during the inter-war period.

Born in Norway in 1861 and perhaps best known for his polar exploration, Mr. Nansen’s humanitarian work helped 450,000 refugees return home after the First World War.

Thanks to his efforts, many others became legal residents and found work in the countries where they had found refuge.

When he died in 1930, aged 69, UNHCR established the Nansen Refugee Award in his honour.

Recent winners include South Sudanese surgeon Dr. Evan Atar Adaha, Sister Angélique Namaika from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Zannah Mustapha, a lawyer and mediator from Borno state in north-eastern Nigeria.

The award includes a commemorative medal and a $150,000 prize donated by Switzerland and Norway. In close consultation with UNHCR, the laureate uses the monetary prize to fund a project that complements their existing work.           

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Greece lost a month that cannot be found neither in “mini Summits” nor in Berlin

20 years on from landmark Mine Ban Treaty, dangers on the rise to life and limb

Cambodia’s schools are the new frontline in the battle against climate change

National parks give a $6 trillion boost to mental health worldwide

EU and China resolve amicably solar panel trade dispute

At Arab League Summit, Guterres reaffirms strong link between UN and people of Arab world

In the future of work it’s jobs, not people, that will become redundant

US-China trade war is a ‘lose-lose’ situation for them and the world, warn UN economists

Why the world is not as globalized as you think

Russia – US in Syria: Selling Afrin to Turkey but facing off ruthlessly for Ghouta

Young people all over the world come together to demand paid good quality internships

These are the top risks for doing business around the world

EU-Japan relations: Foreign Affairs MEPs back Strategic Partnership Agreement

The eight types of AI you should know about

At last Germany to negotiate the costs for a really cohesive Eurozone

Work to make the world a better place: 5 things you need to know about ‘green jobs’

Following the World Cup? Then you’re watching high-performing migrants at work

Rights of ‘gilets jaunes’ protesters in France, ‘disproportionately curtailed’, say UN independent experts

UN Security Council hails ‘courage’ of Afghan voters

What the car industry has done to help fight climate change – and what it needs to do next

How do we go about improving mental health in the community and reducing suicide rates in the 15-29 age group?

Sanctions on Russia to be the biggest unity test at this European Council

UN anti-corruption body in Guatemala rebuts government’s reasons for expulsion order

Germany caught with selfish double standards in euro area policy

Greece may offer to China a European gateway

These companies can recycle nearly anything, from cigarette butts to fax machines

WEF Davos 2016 LIVE: “CO2 is not the problem, it is the symptom”, the pilots who crossed the world using solar energy cry out from Davos

The digital transformation is a skills and education opportunity for all. Companies must use it

Are we at risk of a financial crisis? Our new report takes a look

A day in the life of a refugee: the role of nations and citizens of the world

America’s student debt crisis explained

COP21 Breaking News_04 December: Commitments Made to Reduce Black Carbon, Methane and HFCs

“Joining forces to #BeatPollution”, a Sting Exclusive by the Head of UNEP in Brussels

November infringements package: key decisions

Seize the opportunities of digital technology to improve well-being but also address the risks

The Chinese spirit

Food supply chain: A step closer to ending unfair trading

On eve of Gaza border protest anniversary, UN’s top humanitarian official for Palestine calls for calm

Ecuador: UN ‘stands ready’ to support talks, in bid to end political turmoil

The COP24 Agreement: Yes, it happened at last

China dazzles the world with her Silk Road plan to connect, Asia, Europe and Africa

The European Parliament launches a website on European election results

The Sting’s Mission

The EU cuts roaming charges further while the UK weighs Brexit impact

AI can help us unlock the world’s most complex operating system – the human body

Consultant in Forensic Technology – 1969

Israel is joining forces with Arab states to save coral from climate change destruction

BRICS’ New Development Bank turns four: what has it achieved?

European Business Summit 2014 Launch Event: “Energising Industrial Growth”

The experience economy is booming, but it must benefit everyone

Estonian Prime Minister Ratas: Europe is a thought that must become a feeling

These are the world’s most competitive economies

Tax crimes: special committee calls for a European financial police force

How do we make artificial intelligence more humane?

The multidisciplinary team facing the multidrug resistant form of Tuberculosis in the state of Amazonas (Brazil)

Can the EU last long if it cuts Cyprus out?

The 5 lessons from New York Climate Week to help us combat deforestation

Climate change: Parliament’s blueprint for long-term CO2 cuts

The EU adopted €297 million in concrete actions for refugees and local communities in Jordan and Lebanon

Trump’s Russophiles under investigation, Europe remains ‘en garde’

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s