Human rights lawyer from Kyrgyzstan AzizbekAshurov was awarded the 2019 UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) prestigious Nansen Award. He was awarded for ending status of stateless people through his organisationFerghana Valley Lawyers Without Borders (FVLWB) in Kyrgyzstan which thus became the world’s first country to end statelessness.Ashurov will receive the award comprising of a commemorative medal and a cash prize of USD 150,000 prize money at a ceremony in Geneva on October 7, 2019.
- During the Soviet era, that had no internal borders, people moved across Central Asia with only internal documentation. But soon after the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, new borders were established, that left many people stranded with now-invalid Soviet passports or no means to prove where they were born. Thus it made hundreds of thousands of people stateless throughout the region including Kyrgyzstan.
- With FVLWB founded in 2003, Azizbekprovided free legal advice and assistance to stateless and undocumented people in the southern part of the country.It is the first time in the 65-year-history of the Nansen Award that was given to someone who works on statelessness that comes 5 years after the UNHCR launched a global campaign to eradicate the problem worldwide.
- So far, 220,000 formerly stateless people had obtained citizenship since the campaign’s launch.
- The prize is awarded annually after Norwegian polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen, who was the first high commissioner for refugees for the League of Nations from 1920-1930, the precursor of the United Nations.