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UNHCR questions closure of camps for internally displaced in Chechnya

News Stories, 12 July 2002

© © UNHCR/F.Riller
Chechens in Akiurt camp in Ingushetia's Malgobek district. Ingushetia hosts an estimated 150,000 displaced people from Chechnya.

GROZNY, Chechnya, July 12 (UNHCR) A high-level United Nations mission is in Grozny today to raise concerns about the circumstances surrounding the Russian authorities' recent closure of two tent camps for displaced people in Chechnya.

Severny and Yuzhny camps in Znamenskoe, Chechnya, were closed last week and their 2,200 inhabitants moved mainly to temporary accommodation centres in the war-ravaged Chechen capital of Grozny. UNHCR has expressed concern about the voluntariness of the return to Grozny, as the displaced people were not informed that they had an option to remain. They were also not fully informed about where they were being moved to.

On July 9, UNHCR travelled to Znamenskoe as part of a UN team to assess the situation there. It found one of the camps dismantled and the other almost empty, with just a few tents remaining.

UNHCR has been in close contact with the UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator, who has written on behalf of the UN agencies engaged in the North Caucasus to the authorities in Moscow to raise concerns and questions about the closure of the two camps. The refugee agency continues to stress that returns of displaced Chechens should be voluntary, and is working with the government to resolve the concerns.

In mid-June, UNHCR received assurances from Moscow that Chechens living in neighbouring Ingushetia would not be forced back to their volatile Northern Caucasus homeland. Insisting that returns must be voluntary, the refugee agency specified that those who do not wish to return must have options to allow them to remain in safety. Measures include winterisation of accommodation, ongoing safe haven in Ingushetia, regularisation of their status where they are currently residing and, where opportunities arise, medium-term integration.

Chechens displaced in Ingushetia have told UNHCR that they were afraid to return home because of general insecurity, fighting and so-called "mop-up" operations by security forces. Some also feared detention upon return. Security concerns have prevented UNHCR from working in Chechnya and monitoring possible returns.

There are an estimated 150,000 internally displaced persons in Ingushetia and about 160,000 in Chechnya as the result of a three-year conflict between government troops and Chechen rebels.

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UNHCR country pages

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

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