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UNHCR welcomes Poland's decision to reopen doors to Chechens

News Stories, 19 November 2002

© UNHCR/L.van der Stockt
Chechens in war-torn Grozny. More than 1,600 of them have sought asylum in Poland so far this year.

GENEVA, November 19 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency has welcomed Poland's decision to reopen its doors to Chechen asylum seekers over the weekend, weeks after it barred their entry in the wake of a Chechen attack in Moscow. At the same time, UNHCR expressed hope that Lithuania would follow Poland's positive example.

Last weekend, Poland allowed a group of 150 Russian Federation nationals from Chechnya to enter the country and seek asylum there. The policy reversal occurred after UNHCR protested an earlier decision by Polish authorities to bar Chechens from entering the country following the October 23 terrorist attack on a Moscow theatre.

"We hope that the admission of the Chechens to Poland last weekend represents a permanent return of Poland's policy of open doors to Chechen asylum seekers," said UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski at a press briefing in Geneva Tuesday.

Poland, a signatory of the 1951 Refugee Convention, has seen 1,638 asylum applications from Russian Federation nationals virtually all of them Chechens this year alone.

UNHCR's Janowski also expressed hope that Lithuania would follow Poland's example and reopen its doors to Chechens. Despite being a signatory of the 1951 Convention, Lithuania refused entry to 26 Chechens in early November and returned them to Belarus, upon which 17 of them were deported to Moscow. Their current whereabouts are unknown.




UNHCR country pages

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

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

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.