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UNHCR publication for CIS Conference (Displacement in the CIS) - About this publication

Refugees Magazine, 1 May 1996

This publication was conceived, written and produced by the UNHCR Public Information Section. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the CIS Conference Secretariat.

Note on statistics: The statistics contained in this publication were for the most part provided by governments of CIS countries as part of the CIS Conference process. With the exception of some of the ecological displacements, the earliest movements included date from 1989. The great majority of statistics date from 1991 or 1992. With one or two exceptions, only movements of more than 10,000 people are included in maps and tables. Some represent data from one or two years only. Major gaps remain. Some countries keep very precise statistics on the types of movement covered in this publication. For some other countries, little data has so far been available for a variety of reasons. In certain countries, statistics are gathered differently and do not fit the standard categories.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) was created in 1951 to ensure, throughout the world, the orderly migration of persons who are in need of international migration assistance. The Organization has helped over 8 million people refugees, displaced people and other individuals through humanitarian, emergency and development migration programmes. An inter-governmental organization with more than 100 Member and Observer States participating in its work, IOM acts with its partners in the international community to assist in meeting the operational challenges of migration; advance understanding of migration issues; encourage social and economic development through migration; and work towards effective respect of the human dignity and well-being of migrants.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is a nonpolitical humanitarian agency of the United Nations. It started work in 1951, and has been awarded two Nobel Peace Prizes for its work in pursuit of a dual mandate: to ensure international protection of the world's refugees, and to assist them in seeking permanent solutions to their problems. It is one of the leading operational agencies with the capacity to respond to major emergencies. As a result, in recent years, UNHCR has increasingly been requested to assist internally displaced people. It is currently responsible for some 27 million refugees, IDPs, returnees and war-affected populations. UNHCR has around 5,000 staff in 250 offices in 120 countries. Eighty percent of the staff work in the field.

The Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe originated in the mid-1970s as a multilateral forum for communication and co-operation between East and West. At the end of the Cold War, the Helsinki Process was transformed into practice with the creation of CSCE institutions: a Secretariat in Prague, a Conflict Prevention Centre in Vienna and an Office for Free Elections in Warsaw. In 1992, the CSCE States, now numbering 53, transformed the Office for Free Elections into the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). In January 1995, the CSCE changed its name to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). ODIHR is the OSCE institution responsible for furthering human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

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Internally Displaced People

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

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Ingushetia: Internally Displaced Chechens

When fighting broke out between government troops and rebel forces in Chechnya in 1999, over 200,000 people fled the republic, most of them to the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia. Today, tens of thousands of Chechens remain displaced in Ingushetia, unwilling to go home because of continuing security concerns.

As of early December 2003, some 62,000 displaced Chechens were living in temporary settlements or in private accommodation. Those living in settlements face constant threats of eviction, often by owners who wish to use their buildings again.

Another 7,900 displaced Chechens live in tents in three remaining camps – Satsita, Sputnik, and Bart.

The authorities have repeatedly called for the closure of tent camps and the return of the displaced people to Chechnya. Three camps have been closed in the past year – Iman camp at Aki Yurt, "Bella" or B camp, and "Alina" or A camp. Chechens from the latter two camps who did not wish to go home were allowed to move to Satsita camp or other existing temporary settlements in Ingushetia.

Ingushetia: Internally Displaced Chechens

Displacement in Georgia

Tens of thousands of civilians are living in precarious conditions, having been driven from their homes by the crisis in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia.

On the morning of August 12, the first UNHCR-chartered plane carrying emergency aid arrived in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, the first UN assistance to arrive in the country since fighting broke out the previous week. The airlift brought in 34 tonnes of tents, jerry cans, blankets and kitchen sets from UNHCR's central emergency stockpile in Dubai. Items were then loaded onto trucks at the Tbilisi airport for transport and distribution.

A second UNHCR flight landed in Tbilisi on August 14, with a third one expected to arrive the following day. In addition, two UNHCR aid flights are scheduled to leave for Vladikavkaz in the Russian Federation the following week with mattresses, water tanks and other supplies for displaced South Ossetians.

Working with local partners, UNHCR is now providing assistance to the most vulnerable and needy. These include many young children and family members separated from one another. The situation is evolving rapidly and the refugee agency is monitoring the needs of the newly displaced population, which numbered some 115,000 on August 14.

Posted on 15 August 2008

Displacement in Georgia

Sri Lanka: IDPs and Returnees

During Sri Lanka's 20-year civil war more than 1 million people were uprooted from their homes or forced to flee, often repeatedly. Many found shelter in UNHCR-supported Open Relief Centers, in government welfare centers or with relatives and friends.

In February 2002, the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) signed a cease-fire accord and began a series of talks aimed at negotiating a lasting peace. By late 2003, more than 300,000 internally displaced persons had returned to their often destroyed towns and villages.

In the midst of these returns, UNHCR provided physical and legal protection to war affected civilians – along with financing a range of special projects to provide new temporary shelter, health and sanitation facilities, various community services, and quick and cheap income generation projects.

Sri Lanka: IDPs and Returnees

Vincent Cochetel interviewPlay video

Vincent Cochetel interview

On the occasion of World Humanitarian Day 2010, a senior UNHCR staff member reflects on his experience being kidnapped near Chechnya in 1998.
UN High Commissioner Visits Georgia and RussiaPlay video

UN High Commissioner Visits Georgia and Russia

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres spent four days in Georgia and the Russian Federation to assess UNHCR's humanitarian operations and to speak with those affected by the recent fighting in the breakaway region of South Ossetia.