DUSHANBE -- The US Embassy in Dushanbe marked World Refugee Day on Monday (June 20) alongside the government and people of Tajikistan, and applauded the country's ongoing work hosting Afghan refugees.
The embassy hosted a celebration at American Space Dushanbe with Afghan and Tajik music, food, and art to mark the vibrancy that refugees bring to communities in Tajikistan and the United States.
"We commend Tajikistan for offering a temporary home for Afghan refugees. It reflects Tajikistan's leadership, renowned hospitality, and its willingness to help its neighbours," Charge d'Affaires Bridgette Walker said during the opening ceremony of the celebration.
"We thank the Tajik government for providing safety and support to the Afghan community in their time of need."
The majority of refugees living in Tajikistan are Afghan nationals, ASIA-Plus reported Tuesday, citing data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Tajikistan currently has no resettlement programmes, and most refugees view the country as a transit nation on the way to third countries.
The total number of refugees in Tajikistan amounted to 7,794, including 2,100 asylum seekers, according to UNHCR data for late April.
The number of refugees in Tajikistan reached 15,000 last August.
Many have since gone on to Canada under its refugee resettlement programme, according to the UNHCR office in Tajikistan.
Tajik Interior Minister Ramazon Rakhimzoda last September urged international organisations to help Tajikistan build infrastructure to host Afghan refugees.
Tajikistan had accepted more than 3,000 Afghan families during the past 15 years and allocated 70 hectares of land in the country's south for a proper refugee camp, Rakhimzoda said at the time.
The US government and independent American donor organisations like Spirit of America have made support to the Afghan community and its Tajik neighbours a key focus of US programmes in Tajikistan, the embassy statement noted.
Since last October, the embassy has provided youth programmes at community centres in Vakhdat, enabling thousands of Tajik and Afghan students to learn English, technology and public speaking skills.
Funded by the US State Department and implemented by American Councils, the effort provides transportation for Vakhdat youth attending regular programmes in person at American Space Dushanbe.
On May 11, the Spirit of America NGO announced an additional $100,000 to ensure the programme's funding through the end of 2023.
The organisation contributed more than $35,000 for furniture, sewing machines, audio/visual equipment and high-speed internet for education programmes at community centres in Vakhdat.
Meanwhile, the US embassy funds an English language micro-scholarship programme to provide English-language classes for underserved youth in Vakhdat. Since 2013, the programme has improved the English of more than 120 Tajik and Afghan students to prepare them for future careers.
Meanwhile, when the Somoniyon School in Dushanbe -- Tajikistan's only school for Afghan refugees -- lost its funding from the Afghan government last August, Spirit of America provided $83,000 in emergency assistance to cover rent for the 2021–2022 school year, transportation, internet, furniture and renovations.
The embassy has provided professional development for Tajik and Afghan English teachers.
To strengthen English language instruction, the embassy has trained more than 30 teachers in Vakhdat through the English Without Borders network and the English Teaching Mentor programme.