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Chechnya: concern at closure of tent camps

Briefing notes

Chechnya: concern at closure of tent camps

12 July 2002

UNHCR is very concerned about the circumstances surrounding the recent closure by the Russian authorities of two tent camps for displaced people in Znamenskoe in Chechnya. The camps, Severny and Yuzhny, had housed some 2,200 displaced people. The camps have been closed, with the residents moved mainly to temporary accommodation centres in Grozny. We are particularly concerned about the voluntariness of the return to Grozny, as we have learned that the displaced people were not fully informed that they had an option to remain, nor were they fully informed about where they were being moved to.

UNHCR, as part of a UN team, travelled to Znamenskoe on July 9 to assess the situation and found one of the camps dismantled and the other almost empty, with just a few tents remaining.

We have been in close contact with the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, who has written on behalf of UN agencies engaged in the North Caucasus to the authorities at the Moscow level to raise concerns and questions about the closing of the two camps. A high-level UN mission is in Grozny today to take up our concerns. We continue to stress that returns of displaced Chechens should be voluntary, and we are working with the government to resolve the concerns