Chechnya announces major housing programme for displaced people

News Stories, 27 March 2007

© UNHCR/W.Spindler
Displaced Chechens outside the temporary accommodation centre where they live in Grozny. Some 3,000 displaced families could be in line for new housing under a government plan.

GROZNY, Chechnya, Russian Federation, March 27 (UNHCR) The authorities in Russia's war-ravaged republic of Chechnya have announced that, by the end of this year, they will provide apartments to 3,000 displaced families currently living in temporary accommodation centres.

Asu Dudarkaev, head of the Chechen department of the Federal Migration Service, said that 80 percent of temporary accommodation centres in the republic will be closed by the end of this year and certain categories of their residents will be provided with alternative accommodation. Among those who will benefit are families who lived in apartment blocks destroyed during the Chechen conflict and individuals and families in particularly vulnerable situations.

"Until recently, [displaced] people were coming back from [the neighbouring republic of] Ingushetia and we had to provide temporary shelter," Dudarkaev said during a recent meeting with UNHCR visitors in the Chechen capital, Grozny. "Now we are closing these accommodations. We have 3,000 apartments relinquished by people who left Chechnya permanently and received compensation from the federal government. We are renovating these properties and will make them available to internally displaced people in Chechnya."

Signs of physical reconstruction are to be found everywhere in Grozny which, until recently, was a byword for a city obliterated by war. Huge areas of Grozny, including residential blocks, were razed to the ground when Russian Federation troops recaptured the city from separatists in 1999-2000. At the time most of Chechnya's population fled to other parts of the Russian Federation or abroad.

"There are 20,000 construction jobs in Chechnya today and the number is growing," Dudarkaev said. "This provides a good income to many people and has a positive impact on the local economy."

The UN refugee agency, which supports the reintegration of internally displaced people in Chechnya through regular missions from its offices in Ingushetia and North Ossetia, has cautiously welcomed the ambitious housing programme.

"We welcome the Chechen authorities' commitment to provide adequate housing to internally displaced people," said Wolfgang Milzow, UNHCR representative for the Russian Federation. "The process of allocating the new apartments, however, needs to be done in a fair and transparent way, which takes account of people's individual needs," he added.

Milzow said rigorous checks should be carried out to ensure that people really do have an adequate place to stay before they are moved from the temporary accommodation centres.

Despite the many outward signs that things are improving in Chechnya, serious human rights abuses by law enforcement bodies still persist, according to the Council of Europe and other organisations.

© UNHCR/W.Spindler
One of Grozny's main thoroughfares fringed by new buildings. Signs of physical reconstruction are to be found everywhere in the city, which was largely destroyed in two recent conflicts.

Despite security restrictions, UNHCR maintains protection monitoring functions in Chechnya through regular missions and through the activities of its local partners. UNHCR's partners provide qualified free legal advice and counselling services to the war-affected population including returnees and people displaced inside Chechnya on issues ranging from documentation and compensation for lost housing and property, to legal representation in the civil and criminal courts in order to address human rights abuses.

UNHCR also has a number of quick-impact projects designed to help returnees and displaced people in Chechnya and in Ingushetia by providing them with a basic income through small businesses. Other projects are socially-oriented, such as the provision of musical instruments to a boarding school for blind children and photocopiers to a local library in Grozny.

By William Spindler in Grozny, Chechnya, Russian Federation

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Shelter

One of the first things that people need after being forced to flee their homes, whether they be refugees or internally displaced, is some kind of a roof over their head.

Shelter for the Displaced in Yemen

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Most of the 157,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) from Abyan have found shelter with friends and relatives, but some 20,000 have been staying in dozens of public schools and eight vacant public buildings. Conditions are crowded with several families living together in a single classroom.

Many IDPs expected their displacement would not be for long. They wish to return home, but cannot do so due to the fighting. Moreover, some are fearful of reprisals if they return to areas where many homes were destroyed or severely damaged in bombings.

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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.

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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.

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