High Commissioner visits Russia, Caucasus
High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers will travel this afternoon (Tuesday) to the Russian Federation. The three-day trip includes a brief visit to Ingushetia which houses an estimated 150,000 people displaced from neighbouring Chechnya. The visit will be Lubbers' first to the Russian Federation since becoming High Commissioner for Refugees last year.
In Moscow, the High Commissioner is scheduled to meet the heads of several federal ministries including the foreign minister, I. Ivanov, the emergency minister, S Shoigu, and the interior minister, V. Gryzlov, whose agency took over responsibility for refugee and migration issues at the beginning of this year. The High Commissioner is also expected to meet with Prime Minister M. Kasyanov.
Discussions will focus on the protection of refugees in Russia, the link between asylum and migration in the Russian and regional context, UNHCR's assistance to displaced persons in the Northern Caucasus, and the crises in the Balkans and Afghanistan.
In Ingushetia, Lubbers plans to visit tented camps, host families, and spontaneous settlements for displaced Chechens. Many of the 150,000 Chechens who fled to Ingushetia during the war are currently spending their third winter in displacement. Another 160,000 Chechens are displaced within Chechnya itself.
In Ingushetia, UNHCR helps displaced Chechens by sponsoring legal and psycho-social counselling centres, providing shelter materials and other humanitarian aid and improving water and sanitation facilities. The UNHCR activities complement Russia's humanitarian effort and are carried out in cooperation with other UN and non-governmental agencies.
Russia currently hosts some 21,000 recognized refugees and it has already given residential rights to 210,000 former refugees from CIS countries. There are also many people currently seeking asylum in Russia, of whom some 6,000 are registered with UNHCR. Russia is a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. UNHCR has a regional office in Moscow and field offices in Stavropol, Vladikavkaz and Nazran.