Sunday, May 22, 2005

Sorry to just copy and paste/post as update but there's not much more I can add:
"To All Peace Corps Volunteers - These are difficult times and our
thoughts
and prayers go out to hundreds of innocent Uzbeks who were caught up in
the
violence at Andijon. We also share the anguish of the Volunteers in
Andijon
and the rest of Ferghana Valley who have been so directly affected by
recent
events.

I wanted to take this opportunity to up-date you all on events and
issues
that are directly affecting the Peace Corps program in Uzbekistan. In
so
doing, I want to emphasize that there is no intention on our part to
close
down the Peace Corps program in Uzbekistan. I continue to believe
strongly
that the work the Volunteers are doing is important to the Uzbek people
and
that, for this reason, we will do everything possible to ensure that
all
Volunteers have the opportunity to complete their full terms of service
in
Uzbekistan.

Volunteer Status: In Ferghana Valley, the five Volunteers in Andijon
have
been withdrawn to Tashkent for safety reasons. Because of the nature
of the
recent violence in Andijon and the unlikelihood that the situation
there
will stabilize anytime soon, it has been decided that these five
Volunteers
will not return to Andijon. We are now talking with them about there
options for the future.

The Volunteers in Kokand and Ferghana City remain at their sites and
there
are no plans at the present to bring them out since both areas appear
safe
and stable. The remaining two Volunteers in Namangan are on vacation
and
the decision on whether they will return to their sites in Namangan
will be
made when they return.

The Visa Issue: Fifty-two Uz 18 Volunteers and two other Volunteers
currently have visas that expire on June 1. Working with Ambassador
Purnell, we have informed the Government that these Volunteers will be
withdrawn from Uzbekistan unless the MFA immediately regularizes their
visa
situation. We have set next week as a deadline - if there is no
progress by
that time, we will have no option but to begin processing the departure
of
these Volunteers. We have no choice in this matter since we will not
permit
groups of Volunteers to remain in Uzbekistan in an irregular status
with
expired visas.

For the present, plans to bring in an additional 30-34 Volunteers to
Uzbekistan in August continue to move forward, although the outcome of
our
discussions with the Government about the June 1 visas will directly
affect
our final decision on the August group.

I will keep you all informed as these issues evolve. I understand that
many
of you are understandably concerned about what the future will bring.
We
urge you not to despair - we have faced similar challenges in the past.
I
myself remain hopeful that the visa problems can be worked out with the
Government. But it is important for all of us to understand clearly
where
things stand at the present. If you have any questions or concerns
that you
want to discuss with me or Mary, please don't hesitate to call or to
email.
All the best,
CD Country Director

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