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Russian Federation: last tented camp for Chechens in Ingushetia to be closed in next few days

Briefing notes

Russian Federation: last tented camp for Chechens in Ingushetia to be closed in next few days

4 June 2004

The last remaining tented camp for displaced Chechens in the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia is expected to be closed in the next few days. The Russian Federal Migration Service announced on 25 May that Satsita camp would be closed on 1 June. UNHCR expressed concern about the short notice but was assured by the migration authorities that key utility services - water, electricity, gas - would remain available until all IDPs [internally displaced persons] have left the camp. UNHCR protection staff, who are present in the camp on a daily basis, report the situation is calm and all key utilities are still functioning.

Between 31 May and 1 June, 83 families/422 people were reported to have returned to Chechnya, while another 12 families/70 people moved to other locations within Ingushetia. According to UNHCR's implementing partner, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), 126 families/549 people were still registered in the camp as of 2 June.

All the families in the camp have been interviewed recently by UNHCR protection officers in order to determine their intentions. Most of the IDPs are opting to return to Chechnya, apparently motivated by a range of government incentives including a cash grant of 1,000 rubles per person, a 12-month food ration, and the provision of rooms in temporary accommodation centres or arrangements for private accommodation. The most significant of all the incentives, however, seems to be official notification of the IDPs' eligibility for compensation for lost property and destroyed houses.

For those who prefer to remain in Ingushetia, alternative shelter is available in temporary settlements. UNHCR and its implementing partners have verified that 107 rooms were available at the end of May. Protection staff continue to systematically interview returnees, all of whom claim to be aware of the availability of alternative shelter in Ingushetia. Many have commented that they do not want to move somewhere temporarily, and a few have said they consider the current security situation in Ingushetia to be similar to that in Chechnya.

As previously agreed between the Saudi Red Crescent and the Chechen authorities, most of the camp facilities such as the administration building, medical point, mosque, and school are being dismantled and relocated to the Achkhoi-Martan and Urus-Martan districts of Chechnya. The kindergarten, run by the NGO Caritas, is being relocated to one of the temporary settlements in Ingushetia.

Satsita camp was created in February 2001 and once accommodated more than 5,000 IDPs. It was largely funded by the Saudi Red Crescent. Along with two other tented camps - Alina and Bella (both mostly funded by UNHCR) - Satsita was originally constructed to house IDPs who had been living in railway wagons for more than a year after fleeing the conflict in Chechnya which had flared up again in the autumn of 1999.

In all, by 2001, there were six tented camps in Ingushetia, housing some 23,000 Chechens - around 15 percent of the total population of 153,000 IDPs who had fled to Ingushetia by that time. As of 31 May 2004, DRC reported there were some 54,000 Chechen IDPs still living in Ingushetia, including 24,366 registered in 186 temporary settlements and 29,218 living in private accommodation.