UNHCR seeks $37 million for CIS programmes

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees today launched a special appeal for $37 million to help millions of displaced people living in often destitute conditions across the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Although fighting has ended in all of the seven major conflicts which erupted in the region since 1988, the area is still suffering the after-effects of some of the largest and most complex population movements in recent history.

The 1998 special appeal aims to bring relief to many of the nine million people displaced in the region since the collapse of communism. The recipients include millions fleeing conflict or inter-ethnic tension, entire peoples deported during Stalin's rule who are now returning to their homelands, and asylum seekers from other parts of the world. They will be helped either to repatriate or to settle in their new homes.

UNHCR projects for 1998 include providing food and shelter for the most needy, rebuilding shattered infrastructure in former conflict zones, and income-generating projects to promote self-sufficiency. Extra emphasis will be given to schemes to help governments develop their capacity to care for returnees and the displaced.

Russian Federation

$10 million is needed to help the Russian authorities cope with an influx of 4 million people in recent years. These people include refugees, returning ethnic Russians, and the largest number of illegal immigrants and transit migrants in the entire region. UNHCR will provide material assistance, while stepping up work with the Russian migration authorities to ensure that asylum seekers and the displaced are adequately protected.


Georgia $10.3 million, Azerbaijan $7.1 million, Armenia $4.2 million
Fighting in the Caucasus has subsided, but more than 1.7 million people remain displaced as a result of conflicts in Georgia, Chechnya and Nagorno Karabakh. In Armenia and Azerbaijan, the displaced are often living in abject poverty. Some are facing their fifth bitter winter living in railway carriages, tents or abandoned buildings. UNHCR will continue to provide food aid, shelter, education and health care for the most vulnerable, along with projects to promote refugee legislation. Meanwhile, plans are being made for the return of refugees, should negotiations for a Nagorno Karabakh peace settlements prove successful. In Georgia, UNHCR continues to support efforts to find political solutions to the Abkhaz and South Ossetian conflicts and to promote voluntary returns to these areas. During 1998 it plans to help a substantial number of the 29,000 Ossetian refugees currently in exile in the Russian Federation to begin returning to South Ossetia. In Abkhazia, UNHCR is working to repair infrastructure to help returnees there reintegrate successfully.

Ukraine $2.3 million
UNHCR will continue to work with the Ukrainian authorities on the reintegration of some 250,000 Crimean Tatars who have recently returned after 50 years of exile in Central Asia. Shelter and income generation projects will be backed by schemes to help some 90,000 potentially stateless Crimean Tatars become Ukrainian citizens.

Other programmes to be funded under the 1998 special appeal include technical assistance for the Belarus government to help it cope with an estimated 200,000 illegal migrants, and aid for refugees and the displaced in Moldova.

The appeal is being issued jointly with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), with which UNHCR co-operates closely.