Special Initiatives & Emergency Response

Nansen Refugee Award honours Kyrgyz lawyer for work with stateless people

Human rights lawyer Azizbek Ashurov speaks at the Nansen Refugee Award
Human rights lawyer Azizbek Ashurov addresses the audience after receiving the 2019 Nansen Refugee Award.

The 2019 winner of the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award is Azizbek Ashurov, a lawyer whose work has supported the efforts of the Kyrgyz Republic in becoming the first country in the world to end statelessness.

On Monday night, IKEA managers from 24 countries were happy to witness Ashurov receive his award, as special guests at the ceremony in Geneva. The event was hosted by UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, and supported by the IKEA Foundation and the Canton of Geneva.

Millions of people around the world are stateless, which means they are not recognised as a national of any country. Deprived of legal rights and basic services, stateless people are marginalised and vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

The right to a future

Motivated by his own family’s difficult experience of achieving citizenship after arriving from Uzbekistan, Ashurov offered free legal advice and assistance to displaced, stateless and undocumented people in southern Kyrgyzstan. He said: “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.”

Through his organisation he has helped over 10,000 people gain Kyrgyz nationality after they became stateless following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Among them, some 2,000 children will now have the right to an education and a future with the freedom to travel, marry and work.

Opportunities for refugees

Earlier in the day, IKEA leaders gathered at the IKEA Geneva store to discuss how we can create a better everyday life and more opportunities for refugees.

Hamdi Ulukaya, Founder and CEO of Chobani, another company leading the way in making a stand for refugees, said: “Coming together in an IKEA store discussing this serious human issue is inspiring to me. There is magic in bringing people together to create opportunities for others to shine. When a refugee gets a job he stops being a refugee.”

Read more about Nansen Award winner Azizbek Ashurov.