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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tashkent Denounces Evacuation of 439 Refugees

APUzbek refugees waving from a bus upon arriving in Timisoara, Romania, on Friday. They are being sheltered at an EU-funded center on the city's outskirts.
TIMISOARA, Romania -- The Uzbek Foreign Ministry on Monday criticized the evacuation of Uzbek refugees from Kyrgyzstan as violating "all procedures and norms of international law."

The ministry in a statement accused "outside forces" of "unacceptable and outrageous interference" in Uzbek affairs and of applying "unprecedented pressure" on Kyrgyz authorities not to send back the refugees that Uzbekistan wants extradited.

More than 400 Uzbek refugees arrived in Romania on Friday where they are being temporarily sheltered after fleeing violence during a brutal government crackdown.

The 439 refugees -- including 23 children, 74 women and 342 men -- waved and flashed peace signs with their hands as they arrived at the airport in Timisoara in western Romania.

The refugees are staying in a European Union-funded center located in a former military barracks at the edge of Timisoara, 500 kilometers west of Bucharest. Reporters were not allowed access to the refugees.

The asylum seekers had been living at a UN-sponsored camp in Kyrgyzstan near the border with Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan had been pressuring Kyrgyzstan to hand over the refugees, prompting the United Nations to make plans for moving the asylum seekers to another country, fearing they could face persecution or torture at home.

Veerapong Vongvarotai, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees' representative in Romania said the Uzbeks would be given medical care and food.

Vasile Dragoi, who heads the National Office for Refugees in Romania, said the center would offer the refugees protection. "They will not leave this center, except for in exceptional situations such as medical emergencies or them leaving for the final destination countries," Dragoi said.

Foreign Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu said last week that the Uzbeks would remain in Romania for up to six months and then would be sent to other countries, including the United States, the Netherlands and Canada.

Australia on Friday offered to take 50 refugees.