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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

438 Uzbek Refugees Resettled Abroad

TIMISOARA, Romania -- More than 400 Uzbek refugees who came to Romania a year ago after escaping political persecution in their homeland have resettled abroad, an immigration official said Monday.

Hundreds of Uzbeks fled to neighboring Kyrgyzstan after violence in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijan in May 2005. They were airlifted to Romania by the UN refugee agency and then granted asylum in Western countries.

Cristina Gheorghe-Tranca, head of the Romanian mission of the International Organization for Migration, said the refugees had now settled in the United States, Australia, Canada, Finland, Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden.

A total of 439 refugees arrived in the western Romanian city of Timisoara on July 29, 2005, and one child was born during the stay in Romania.

Gheorghe-Tranca said the last two remaining refugees, whose departure was delayed for health reasons, would leave this week.

U.S. Ambassador Nicholas Taubman, who went to Timisoara for a news conference with Gheorghe-Tranca, and other officials said Romania's hospitality to the refugees was "a sure sign of [its] intention to fulfill its role as a democratic society. ... The willingness to open its doors to offer temporary shelter for hundreds of Uzbek, men, women and children who fled their home country due to political persecution."

Gheorghe-Tranca thanked the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the Romanian government, the U.S. agency for International Development, the European Union, the nongovernment organization Young Generation and the governments of the countries where refugees had relocated.

Rights groups and witnesses said at least 700 people died in Andijan when government troops fired on thousands of mostly unarmed protesters. The government said 187 died, mostly Islamic militants who allegedly launched the uprising with support from the West.

The Uzbek government closed the UN High Commissioner for Refugees office in Uzbekistan last year, accusing the organization of sheltering terrorists.

The refugees stayed in a center on the outskirts of Timisoara and had little contact with the media and Romanians for security reasons.