UNHCR protests forced return of Chinese asylum seekers from Russia

Briefing Notes, 30 March 2007

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 30 March 2007, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

According to credible information received by UNHCR, a Chinese asylum seeker and her 8-year-old daughter were taken by the Russian authorities from their St. Petersburg residence last Wednesday (28 March) and put on a plane departing to China via Novosibirsk. The woman and her daughter had submitted a claim for asylum in accordance with the Russian Federation Law on Refugees. Their appeal against a first negative decision was scheduled to be considered by the Dzerzhinky District court in St. Petersburg this afternoon. Both had been registered by UNHCR as persons in need of international protection.

UNHCR is concerned at their forcible deportation in violation of the Russian Federation's international obligations and of the Russian Federation Law on Refugees, both of which prohibit the return of asylum seekers to their country of origin before a final decision on their asylum claims has been made. The Russian Federation is a signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

UNHCR is following up with the asylum seekers' legal counsel and the Russian authorities to clarify the facts of the matter.

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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

UNHCR Tents Reaching Earthquake Survivors in China

The UN refugee agency has provided 11,000 urgently needed tents to China to help with emergency shelter for some of the 5 million people left homeless after the devastating earthquake that struck Sichuan province on May 12, 2008.

The tents, which were manufactured in China for UNHCR, have been transported to the quake zone. The first 2,000 tents were airlifted to the zone and arrived in Chengdu on May 25 and the remaining 9,000 arrived not long after. These tents can provide shelter for 55,000 people. They have been distributed in the cities of Aba, Deyang and Guangyuan, close to the epicentre of the quake.

Posted on 4 June 2008

UNHCR Tents Reaching Earthquake Survivors in China

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.
UNHCR donates tents for China's earthquake victimsPlay video

UNHCR donates tents for China's earthquake victims

The May 12 earthquake in China's Sichuan province caused widespread destruction and death. UNHCR is responding by donating thousands of tents to help give displaced families some shelter while they rebuild their homes.
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.