UNHCR protests forced movement of Chechens in Ingushetia
GENEVA, August 15 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency has protested against the "unacceptable treatment" of displaced Chechens who have been forcibly moved from place to place within Ingushetia recently.
Last Sunday, 200 internally displaced people (IDPs) from Chechnya were removed from Ingushetia's Askanovskie Garazhi temporary settlement by 20 to 30 Ingush policemen. The Chechens were put on trucks and moved back to Bella camp, where they had been living for three years before being evicted earlier last week. Since their return to the camp, they have been prevented from returning to their old accommodation and are currently placed in poor conditions in decrepit buildings.
"UNHCR strongly objects to the aggressive and unacceptable manner in which IDPs from the camp were treated," said the refugee agency's spokesman, Kris Janowski, in Geneva Friday. "The recent evictions challenge the validity of official statements that all IDPs in Ingushetia may stay in Ingushetia until they wish to return in full safety and dignity, and indicates that these statements may be without political commitment."
In Ingushetia, the federal and local authorities have repeatedly assured UNHCR that any returns to Chechnya will be voluntary. For returns to be voluntary, displaced people must receive accurate information on conditions for return, as well as a genuine alternative in Ingushetia if they choose to stay.
Many of the estimated 80,000 displaced Chechens in Ingushetia - 12,000 of whom live in five tented camps - have expressed fears about returning to Chechnya because of insecurity there.
For those who do not wish to return to Chechnya at the moment, UNHCR is concerned about alternative housing in Ingushetia. The refugee agency and other international humanitarian organisations have offered to help authorities develop such alternative shelter, but the offer has not yet been accepted.