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UNHCR Global Appeal 1999 - The Russian Federation


UNHCR Global Appeal 1999 - The Russian Federation

1 December 1998

Basic Facts

What we do

Protect and assist recognized refugees and asylum-seekers, internally displaced persons, forced migrants, involuntarily relocated persons and formerly deported people; help them integrate; help build the capacity of governmental and non-governmental institutions; promote the voluntary repatriation of Georgian refugees; and rehabilitate areas affected by refugees and displaced people.

Who we help

Some 32,000 asylum-seekers from outside the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and 173,000 persons formally registered as refugees from CIS countries. Also of concern to UNHCR are: some 150,000 internally displaced persons from Chechnya (Russian Federation) 23,000 internally displaced persons from North Ossetia (Prigorodny District); 29,000 Georgian refugees; 20,000 formerly deported Meskhetian Turks; and some 1,000,000 registered and recognized forced migrants from the CIS countries.

Our requirements

US$ 13,441,842

Our offices

Moscow, St. Petersburg, Stavropol, Vladikavkaz,

Field presence through: Danish Refugee Council-seconded staff in Lipetsk, Saratov and Voronesh in Central Russian federation.

Our partners

International NGOs: Magee Woman Care International (MWI), Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Opportunity International (OI), Danish Refugee Council (DRC).

Russian NGOs: Solidarity (SOL), St.Petersburg Red Cross (SPRC), Moscow Red Cross (MRC), Children's Fund of North Ossetia, Forum of Migrant Organizations, Coordinating Council for Assistance to Refugees and Forced Migrants (CCARFM), Civic Assistance, Memorial Human Rights Centre, St.Petersburg Red Cross (SPRC), Compatriots Foundation, HOKO Youth Centre, Women's Union of Russia (WUR), Partner Foundation, Stavropol Children's Fund, Migrant Newspaper, Russian House, Volgograd Children's Fund, Compatriots - Omsk, Compatriots - Pereslavl, Rassvet - Oryol, Nadezhda - Kaliningrad region, International Assembly for Human Rights Protection, Svetoch - Penza, Guild of Russian Filmmakers, St.Petersburg Society of Families with many children.


The UNHCR presence in the Russian Federation was established in 1992 to protect of non-CIS refugees and asylum-seekers. In particular, there was an urgent need to establish reliable and fair refugee determination procedures.

Forced Displacement

The dissolution of the former Soviet Union brought several groups of people, including minorities, into the new and unfamiliar CIS structure. The Russian Government urged UNHCR to address the issue of forced displacement. As early as 1994, UNHCR and Russian authorities began exploring ways to approach the issue of involuntarily relocated persons, especially ethnic Russians, moving to Russia from other countries of the former Soviet Union. The same year, at the invitation of the Russian Government, UNHCR sent a mission to assess the situation in the Northern Caucasus region and provide assistance to the population displaced by various regional conflicts.

War in Chechnya (Russian Federation)

Following the outbreak of war in Chechnya, the Russian Government, in 1995, requested that UNHCR assist the civilian victims of the conflict who fled to neighbouring republics and other parts of Russia. The United Nations inter-agency and UNHCR emergency operation in the region terminated at the end of 1997, though the effects of the conflict remain.

The environment in which we operate

The vastness, extreme climates, ethnic and cultural diversity, and acute security problems of the Russian Federation pose constant challenges to UNHCR and its partners. The lack of security, especially in the North Caucasus, is a serious impediment to the full implementation of UNHCR's programmes. The number of international staff has been reduced to a minimum and all activities are conducted under strict security arrangements. Relations with government authorities, both at the federal and regional levels, are characterized by cooperation and respect. However, the negative attitude of the city authorities and police in the Moscow region, and the xenophobic attitude of some sectors of the public towards non-CIS refugees and asylum-seekers, raises serious concerns.


UNHCR works to ensure the protection of refugees and other persons of concern, seeks durable solutions to their problems, and supports conflict-resolution and the rule of law. The agency helps strengthen the national structures entrusted with status determination, registration and assistance to persons of concern to UNHCR by ensuring that international conventions are respected. This work benefits the Federal and Regional Migration Services, various Ministries and NGOs throughout the country.

Internally Displaced Persons and Forced Migrants

UNHCR provides micro-credit loans and rehabilitates accommodation centres and community-based infrastructure which foster integration, assimilation and self-sufficiency among internally displaced persons and forced migrants. These projects, which are designed to benefit the local population as well, will profit from UNHCR's recently established presence in the northern (St. Petersburg) and central Russian Federation (Lipetsk, Saratov and Voronesh).

Northern Caucasus and Southern Russian Federation

Following the still-unresolved abduction of Vincent Cochetel in the North Caucasus at the beginning of 1998, UNHCR activities were suspended. In North Ossetia, the only active programme involves promoting and assisting the voluntary repatriation of Georgian refugees. In 1999, UNHCR will continue to support the early-warning system, established in Daghestan and Kabardino-Balkharia, which employs local academics, journalists and others to monitor, assess and report regularly on developments in these areas.

UNHCR efforts are concentrated in Southern Russian Federation. There the agency works to strengthen local capacities, assists in the integration of internally displaced persons from North Caucasus and forced migrants, and promotes confidence-building and cultural reconciliation among communities in Krasnodar Krai where Meskhetian Turks live. Stavropol has replaced Vladikavkaz as the UNHCR centre for operations in the South.

Refugees and Asylum-Seekers

The care and maintenance programme for the most vulnerable refugees and asylum-seekers in the Moscow and St. Petersburg areas will continue in 1999. But efforts to develop the self-sufficiency of asylum-seekers/refugees and to seek other durable solutions, including resettlement to third countries, will be intensified.

Public awareness campaigns - including the dissemination of refugee law and tolerance education, TV and radio spots, and round tables for journalists, government authorities and migrant groups - will be strengthened in 1999.

Protection and Solutions

Involuntarily Relocated Persons/Forced Migrants/Formerly Deported Persons

In 1993, the Russian Federation adopted a law on involuntarily relocated persons which provides basic assistance to (primarily) Russian citizens who were forced to flee discrimination, armed conflict and similar circumstances in the CIS and Baltic countries. As of 1 July 1998, the Federal Migration Service had registered some 966,394 persons (386,256 families) as involuntarily relocated persons, including internally displaced persons, who hold Russian citizenship and may therefore integrate more easily in the Russian society.

UNHCR will continue its partnership with the Federal Migration Service by providing material and technical support to its federal and regional offices, rehabilitating infrastructures, such as accommodation centres, points of immigration control offices, and training government officials.

In cooperation with the Technical Assistance Programme for the CIS (TACIS), the existing legal assistance network will be developed to increase the number of the regional contact points of the Russian human rights NGO, Memorial. This network contributes to the development of refugee law in the Russian Federation by facilitating the distribution of precedent-setting decisions.

UNHCR will expand its cooperation with specialized NGO partners in the income-generation sector. By doing so, the agency supports the integration of migrants through access to credit/loan schemes and small-scale micro-enterprise development (MED) projects. Projects in Voronezh, Saratov, Rostov-on-Don, Novgorod and other regions will continue in 1999, while activities are consolidated to develop independent local loan networks of agencies.

Meskhetian Turks

The Meskhetian Turks originate from the southern parts of Georgia. During the 1940s, Stalin forcibly deported some 100,000 of them, for alleged security reasons, to the Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union. Following inter-ethnic violence in 1989-90, the authorities of the Russian Federation evacuated most of the Meskhetian Turks to Russia, where a considerable number settled in Krasnodar Krai. However, because of restrictive local residence regulations, they could neither apply for refugee status nor for Russian citizenship. Consequently, this group continues to live in settlements in the Krasnodar Region in a legal limbo, deprived of some of the most basic human rights. Their unregulated presence has created social tensions with the local population. In 1998, the Russian authorities sought UNHCR's help in addressing the problems of the 20,000 Mesketian Turks living in Krasnodar Krai.

UNHCR's main objective is to seek durable solutions for these people through a combined strategy of resettlement of the most vulnerable and local self-sufficiency in the Russian Federation for the rest, until the question of their possible return to their homelands is resolved. This two-pronged approach involves close cooperation with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) High Commissioner on National Minorities (a round table meeting took place in The Hague in September 1998) and the implementation of small, non-discriminatory community-based rehabilitation projects that promote inter-ethnic reconciliation and confidence-building while addressing the educational and medical needs of the villages in which the Meskhetian community lives.

Internally Displaced Persons from Chechnya (Russian Federation)

As of 1 July 1998, the Federal Migration Service registered some 149,945 internally displaced persons (61,579 families) from Chechnya (Russian Federation) as well as some 23,182 internally displaced persons (4,924 families) from North Ossetia as involuntarily relocated persons under the Russian law. Registered internally displaced persons are entitled to a number of social benefits, access to housing or compensation grants for property lost during the war in Chechnya (Russian Federation).

Internally displaced persons from Chechnya (Russian Federation) are mainly ethnic Russians who hold Russian citizenship and will not be able to return to Chechnya (Russian Federation) in the foreseeable future. Though lawyers supported by UNHCR assist them in obtaining permanent registration, their integration is stymied in most cases by lack of resources. UNHCR places great emphasis on integration programmes for the mostly Russian-speaking internally displaced persons from Chechnya (Russian Federation) living in Stavropol Krai. These activities include building the capacity of local government bodies and NGOs, rehabilitating schools, hospitals, and homes for the elderly, and providing support to self-sufficiency projects which create employment opportunities for both migrant and local communities.

UNHCR will continue to fund Refugee Counselling Centres in Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia and Daghestan that provide legal and social counselling to internally displaced persons and refugees residing in these regions.

Asylum-Seekers and Refugees From Within the Commonwealth of Independant States

Prior to the adoption of the new refugee law in 1997, asylum-seekers from the CIS were often granted a prima facie determination of their claims. However, the new law, which requires a full eligibility procedure, has resulted in a reduction of the number of recognitions. According to the Federal Migration Service, as of 1 July 1998, some 173,207 persons (71,970 families) were formally registered as refugees. They mainly originate from Central Asia and the Transcausasus. Two large groups include ethnic Ossetians from Georgia and ethnic Armenians from Azerbaijan.

Despite the acquisition of refugee status, and due to restrictive registration criteria established in several parts of the Russian Federation, certain groups of refugees from countries of the Commonwealth of Independant States have not been able to receive permanent registration. Therefore, they cannot process their applications for Russian citizenship and are subjected to discriminatory practices, including housing evictions and lack of access to employment, social benefits or pensions.

In 1999, UNHCR will intensify its efforts to support permanent integration for some 1,500 Baku Armenians who benefit from legal, material and social assistance through the Refugee Counselling Centre set up by the NGO, Memorial. A resettlement option will be offered to the most vulnerable families.

Georgia Repatriation

Since the signing of a quadripartite repatriation agreement in February 1997 among the parties concerned and UNHCR, it has become possible to promote voluntary repatriation of South Osset refugees to South Ossetia and Georgia from North Ossetia. In 1998, UNHCR assisted some 503 persons (150 families) in returning to their places of origin; an additional 500 persons are likely to return by the end of that year. UNHCR and its implementing partner, the Norwegian Refugee Council, provide transport and distribute assistance packages to returnees. These efforts will be intensified in 1999, targeting refugees originating from villages in Georgia.

Asylum-seekers and refugees from outside the CIS

Although a national refugee status determination procedure has existed in Russia since 1994, processing of non-CIS asylum-seekers did not begin in several regions until after the new refugee law was adopted in July 1997. But procedures still do not conform with international standards, and only a very limited number of asylum-seekers receive refugee status. At the time of publication, only 282 persons (114 families), mainly from Afghanistan, received refugee status. The overwhelming majority either wait for a decision or has yet to be admitted into a refugee status determination procedure. These asylum-seekers are considered illegal aliens, are denied access to social benefits, health facilities, education or employment, and are regularly subjected to police harassment and detention.

UNHCR operates reception centres in Moscow and St. Petersburg in which persons from outside the CIS can register if they are seeking asylum in the Russian Federation. The centres offer free legal counselling and aid. Since 1992, UNHCR has registered more than 32,000 persons, mainly from Afghanistan, Iraq, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and various African countries. About one-third of these persons have already left the Russian Federation. It is estimated that more than 3,000 asylum-seekers, mainly Afghans, reside in St. Petersburg.

UNHCR will continue to support education, medical care, social and legal counselling for selected vulnerable asylum-seekers in Moscow and St. Petersburg.


Relief items, including winter clothing, shoes and hygienic materials, are provided to women, children and elderly refugees in Stavropol, Moscow, St. Petersburg and Novgorod, and will be provided to those in Saratov and Orenburg.

Community-based projects for 1999 will focus on the rehabilitation of schools, medical facilities, hostels for elderly internally displaced persons, and other infrastructure. These activities, and the distribution of educational materials and medical equipment, are implemented in coordination with local Ministries of Health, Education, and Social Protection.

To address basic medical needs of non-CIS asylum-seekers in Moscow, UNHCR is supporting two special clinics for refugee women and refugee children. In addition to providing basic health services and medical referrals for these groups, these clinics also promote health education through lectures, discussion groups and dissemination of publications on various health-related topics. In 1999, UNHCR will expand the programme to include subjects related to psychological well-being and self-reliance for refugee women. Similar arrangements implemented by the St. Petersburg Red Cross will also be strengthened.

UNHCR will continue to support education for refugee children in Moscow at the primary and secondary levels. Tertiary education (DAFI), vocational training, and work-experience placements for non-CIS adolescent refugees will also be supported in 1999.


The United Nations Inter-Agency Humanitarian Assistance Programme for Chechnya (Russian Federation) continued until the end of 1997. At the beginning of 1998, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called upon the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to continue the inter-agency programme within the framework of post-conflict rehabilitation. The kidnapping of UNHCR's Head of Office in North Ossetia and the deteriorating security situation, however, halted the programme.


There is a lack of ability to assess, implement and monitor activities for internally displaced persons, refugees and other persons of concern, in the many remote regions of the Russian Federation. UNHCR's increased presence in Stavropol, St. Petersburg and the central Russian Federation has, to some degree, helped alleviate this problem by providing increased field coverage. However, staff security, especially in the outreach areas of North Caucasus, remains a great concern. The skeleton team of international staff stationed in the area must operate under strict security arrangements.

Budget US$

ActivitiesGeneral ProgammesSpecial Programmes
Domestic Needs/Household Support1,894,300130,000
Water Supply86,700
Shelter/Other Infrastructures679,000636,463
Community Services285,300496,650
Legal Assistance/Protection448,0001,143,719
Agency Operational Support425,800411,113
Programme Delivery Costs*2,469,200967,242
Administrative Support501,200
TOTAL GP + SP13,441,842

* Includes costs for protection, monitoring and coordination.