Chechnya: spontaneous returns at a halt
Continued instability in Chechnya has brought spontaneous returns to the republic to a virtual halt. A mere 40 to 50 people went back to Chechnya in December, while 1,500 fled from Chechnya to Ingushetia during the same period. Potential returnees are deterred by heavy Russian security presence, continued clashes and Chechnya's devastated infrastructure. A total of 158,000 internally displaced Chechens are currently in Ingushetia. Most (about 70 percent) are still living with host families. About one-tenth are in tented camps, while about one-fifth still live in various "spontaneous" settlements such as railway cars or decrepit buildings.
UNHCR and its partners have now completed the construction of the first fully equipped tented refugee camp, which houses 4,500 people. The tents are equipped with floors and stoves. They are also connected to running water and electricity. The camp has a fully equipped kitchen, garbage cans and a sufficient number of latrines. Shower blocks are also being put in. Construction is underway of two more similar camps.
At the same time, relief agencies are distributing shelter repair material to residents of 35 makeshift settlements in Ingushetia's Malgobeksky, Nazranovsky, Sunzhensky regions. The material includes cement, plastic sheeting, roofing nails and stoves. Even though the UN put its activities in Chechnya on hold following the kidnapping earlier this month of an international NGO worker, the relief operation in Ingushetia continues.