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Poland: UNHCR welcomes decision on Chechens

Briefing Notes, 19 November 2002

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Kris Janowski to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 19 November 2002, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR welcomes Poland's decision last weekend to allow a group of 150 Russian Federation nationals from Chechnya to enter the country and seek asylum there. They are the first Chechens to be allowed to seek asylum in Poland in weeks. The Polish authorities had decided to bar Chechens from entering the country following the October 23 terrorist attack on a Moscow theatre by Chechen separatists. The decision sparked protests by the UNHCR and human rights groups. UNHCR has urged Poland not to close its doors to Chechen asylum seekers.

UNHCR hopes that the admission of 150 Chechens to Poland last weekend represents a permanent return of Poland's policy of open doors to Chechen asylum seekers. This year alone 1,638 Russian Federation nationals virtually all of them Chechens had asked for asylum in Poland.

UNHCR continues to be concerned about the situation in neighbouring Lithuania, which earlier this month barred 26 Chechens mostly women and children from entering the country and applying for asylum. UNHCR hopes that Lithuania will follow Poland's example and reopen its doors to Chechens.

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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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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.