UNHCR dismayed at murder of humanitarian worker

Press Releases, 15 July 2009

GENEVA The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) wishes to express its shock and deep sorrow at the murder on 15 July of Ms. Natalia Estemirova, a staff member of UNHCR's implementing partner, Memorial, in the Russian Federation. Ms. Estemirova was found dead in the North Caucasus region of Ingushetia following her abduction from her home in Grozny.

UNHCR extends its condolences to Memorial and Ms. Estemirova's family.

Since 2000, Ms. Estemirova had been a social worker with the NGO Memorial and its UNHCR-funded legal and social counselling project in Grozny. She worked on issues related to internally displaced people in Chechnya and their safe return to their homes. Memorial has been an implementing partner of UNHCR in the North Caucasus since 2000 and received UNHCR's Nansen Refugee Award in 2004.

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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.

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

Benin: Influx from Togo

More than 30,000 people fled Togo to seek security in neighbouring countries when violence erupted with the announcement of election results on April 26, 2005. The outflow slowed in the ensuing weeks, but Benin and Ghana continue to register daily arrivals.

More than half of the refugees arrived in Benin, many through the main crossing point at Hilakondji. The majority stayed with friends and host families, while several thousand were moved from a church compound near Hilakondji to Come and Lokossa camps. More land is being cleared at Lokossa to accommodate more of the new arrivals. UNHCR and its partners are providing food and relief items and building sanitation facilities.

In Ghana, most of the Togolese are living with relatives and friends, but these host families are now running low on resources. Aid agencies are working to meet the increasing need to distribute food and relief items like mats, jerry cans, mosquito nets and soap.

Benin: Influx from Togo

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