• Text size Normal size text | Increase text size by 10% | Increase text size by 20% | Increase text size by 30%

Refugees Magazine Issue 98 (After the Soviet Union) - Meeting the challenge

Refugees Magazine, 1 December 1994

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister S. Krylov says an influx of refugees and forced migrants into his country is growing, and today totals some 2 million people.

Following are excerpts from an October 4 address by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister S. Krylov at UNHCR's Executive Committee meeting in Geneva:

In every region of the world, the deep-rooted causes of humanitarian catastrophes are identical: social and economic instability; a rise in aggressive nationalism and xenophobia; ethnic, clan and religious intolerance; and disregard for basic human rights. For Russia and other countries within the post-Soviet space these are not abstract notions but the day-to-day reality of societies painfully parting with a totalitarian past.

The peculiarity of Russia's situation is that humanitarian problems remain unabated despite democratic reforms. The magnitude and novelty of the problems we face overshadow the means at our disposal. Several zones of instability and regional conflicts primarily in the Caucasus and Central Asia are Russia's immediate neighbours. Flows of refugees and forced migrants from these regions into Russia are growing. Today, they account for nearly 2 million persons.

The ever-growing number of ethnic Russians who wish to settle in Russia is of special concern. From relatively safe Uzbekistan alone, the number of such persons grew eight-fold between January and August 1994.

Russia also faces a constantly growing flow of refugees from Asia and Africa. It is no revelation that the majority of these persons regard Russia as only temporary shelter on the way to Western Europe and America. But unsettled nationality issues, porous borders and tougher entry requirements in traditional asylum countries means there is a growing danger that they will settle down in Russia creating a kind of "reservation" for illegal immigrants.

We are firmly convinced that all these problems should be solved primarily by ourselves. This is not only our moral duty, but an obligation under a variety of international instruments to which Russia is a party.

We have achieved some progress in meeting the requirements of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees. A federal migration programme has recently been approved, for example, and a number of regulations adopted on migration control, status determination and other refugee- and migrant-related issues. The Federal Migration Service of Russia, established in 1992, is expanding its activities, with offices in many regions of the country working to international standards.

There has also been progress in relations with our partners in the Commonwealth of Independent States. An agreement on assistance to refugees and forced migrants has been signed and a draft convention on the rights of ethnic minorities has been developed. Russia is doing a great deal to stabilize the economic and political situation in CIS countries. This is probably the most effective way to reduce outflows of refugees and migrants.

We know we have made some mistakes in this new endeavour. Some of them are caused by inexperience; others, unfortunately, by the unwillingness of some officials to act in accordance with rules of law and human morals. Despite such problems we will continue to strive to fulfil our obligations.

We appreciate the moral and material support we receive from international organizations, prime among them UNHCR. Experience of joint work such as the implementation of the Quadripartite Agreement on Voluntary Return of Refugees and Displaced Persons to Abkhazia has been very valuable. We will draw on the lessons learned in our next task: preparing adequate conditions for the return of refugees from North Ossetia and Tajikistan.

Russia should never be allowed to become a source of instability a country producing uncontrollable flows of aggressively minded refugees. To prevent that, we need broader cooperation with UNHCR and other international organizations such as UNDP. The regions of Russia that accept refugees should be priority recipients of technical and other assistance provided by the UNHCR and other international organizations. Russian experts who work with refugees should receive broader training.

We in Russia have been working to prepare an international conference on refugees. We have also prepared a draft national report and have established a legal basis for defining refugee status. We have improved coordination between agencies dealing with refugee problems. Our consultations with numerous states have confirmed their interest in the above-mentioned conference. This is an encouraging sign demonstrating that the international community does not intend to distance itself from the problems in the post-Soviet space.

Despite its many complex problems Russia also participates in the UNHCR-organized operation in Yugoslavia and has already provided $500,000 in aid to Rwanda. We are ready to take part in UNHCR operations in several countries of the former USSR, particularly in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

High Commissioner Sadako Ogata has said that "by protecting individuals, we reduce tensions in society and enhance global human security". We agree. The protection of individuals is the only way to lay down a solid basis for the sustained and progressive development of mankind. In the next century, meeting the real rights and needs of persons will be a genuine criterion of the progress of our civilization.

Source: Refugees Magazine Issue 98 (1994)




UNHCR country pages


The protection of millions of uprooted or stateless people is UNHCR's core mandate.

Refugee Protection in International Law

Edited by Erika Feller, Volker Türk and Frances Nicholson, published 2003 by Cambridge University Press


The number of refugees of concern to UNHCR stood at 10.4 million at the beginning of 2013, down slightly from a year earlier.


UNHCR advocates fair and efficient procedures for asylum-seekers

Internally Displaced People

The internally displaced seek safety in other parts of their country, where they need help.

Related Internet Links

UNHCR is not responsible for the content and availability of external internet sites

New refugees from Central African Republic struggle with ration cuts in southern Chad

Since January 2014, a funding shortfall has forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut food rations by 60 per cent in refugee camps in southern Chad. The reduction comes as thousands of refugees from Central African Republic (CAR) continue to arrive in the south - more than 14,000 of them since the beginning of 2014. Many arrive sick, malnourished and exhausted after walking for months in the bush with little food or water. They join some 90,000 other CAR refugees already in the south - some of them for years.

The earlier refugees have been able to gain some degree of self-reliance through agriculture or employment, thus making up for some of the food cuts. But the new arrivals, fleeing the latest round of violence in their homeland, are facing a much harsher reality. And many of them - particularly children - will struggle to survive because WFP has also been forced cut the supplemental feeding programmes used to treat people trying to recover from malnutrition.

WFP needs to raise US$ 186 million to maintain feeding programmes for refugees in Africa through the end of the year. Additionally, UNHCR is urgently seeking contributions towards the US$ 78 million it has budgeted this year for food security and nutrition programmes serving refugees in Africa.

Photojournalist Corentin Fohlen and UNHCR Public Information Officer Céline Schmitt visited CAR refugees in southern Chad to document their plight and how they're trying to cope.

New refugees from Central African Republic struggle with ration cuts in southern Chad

Refugees prepare for winter in Jordan's Za'atari camp

Life in Jordan's Za'atari refugee camp is hard. Scorching hot in the summer and freezing cold in the winter, this flat, arid patch of land near the border with Syria was almost empty when the camp opened in July. Today, it hosts more than 31,000 Syrians who have fled the conflict in their country.

The journey to Jordan is perilous. Refugees cross the Syrian-Jordan border at night in temperatures that now hover close to freezing. Mothers try to keep their children quiet during the journey. It is a harrowing experience and not everyone makes it across.

In Za'atari, refugees are allocated a tent and given sleeping mats, blankets and food on arrival. But as winter approaches, UNHCR is working with partners to ensure that all refugees will be protected from the elements. This includes upgrading tents and moving the most vulnerable to prefabricated homes, now being installed.

Through the Norwegian Refugee Council, UNHCR has also distributed thousands of winter kits that include thermal liners, insulated ground pads and metal sheeting to build sheltered kitchen areas outside tents. Warmer clothes and more blankets will also be distributed where needed.

Refugees prepare for winter in Jordan's Za'atari camp

2014: CAR refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon

Each week 10,000 Muslims cross into eastern Cameroon to escape the violence consuming the Central African Republic (CAR). Many new arrivals report that they have been repeatedly attacked as they fled. The anti-Balaka militiamen have blocked main roads to Cameroon, forcing people to find alternate routes through the bush. Many are walking two to three months to reach Cameroon, arriving malnourished and bearing wounds from machetes and gunshots.

UNHCR and its partners have established additional mobile clinics at entry points to provide emergency care as refugees arrive. The UN refugee agency is also supporting public health centres that have been overwhelmed by the number of refugees and their condition.

Meanwhile, UNHCR has relocated some 20,000 refugees who had been living in the open in the Garoua Bouai and Kenzou border areas, bringing them to new sites at Lolo, Mborguene, Gado and Borgop in the East and Adamwa regions.

Since the beginning of the year, Cameroon has received nearly 70,000 refugees from CAR, adding to the 92,000 who fled in earlier waves since 2004 to escape rebel groups and bandits in the north of their country.

UNHCR staff members Paul Spiegel and Michele Poletto recently travelled to eastern Cameroon and have the following photos to share from their iPhone and camera.

2014: CAR refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon

Lebanon: A Tough Winter AheadPlay video

Lebanon: A Tough Winter Ahead

Syrian refugees are bracing for long, cold months ahead. UNHCR and its partners estimate that some 132,000 refugee households (660,000 people) in Lebanon are in need of some kind of assistance during the winter to keep them warm and dry.
Iraq: Preparing for Winter in DohukPlay video

Iraq: Preparing for Winter in Dohuk

Efforts are under way in Syria, Iraq and neighbouring countries to prepare refugees and the internally displaced for winter. But UNHCR remains deeply concerned that a $58.45 million funding shortfall could leave as many as a million people out in the cold.
Jordan: Camp Life From a Child's ViewpointPlay video

Jordan: Camp Life From a Child's Viewpoint

A UNHCR photographic project, "Do You See What I See," lets young refugees in Jordan's Za'atari camp share their world and thoughts with others.