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Ingushetia: Relocation of Chechens completed

Briefing notes

Ingushetia: Relocation of Chechens completed

30 September 2003

The last of the 1,000 displaced Chechens in Bella camp in Ingushetia yesterday moved to another site, called Satsita camp, following negotiations involving UNHCR, the federal and local authorities and the IDPs themselves. UNHCR has provided a total of 166 tents to accommodate them in Satsita camp. The majority of the IDPs started moving to Satsita towards the end of last week after receiving a number of guarantees from the authorities. The great majority of Bella's inhabitants chose to remain in Ingushetia for the time being rather than return to Chechnya.

One group, which had been particularly hesitant about relocating from Bella, consisted of some 85 IDPs who were not registered with the migration authorities. They feared, quite understandably, that any relocation within Ingushetia would exclude them. At a 23 September meeting with the acting head of the Federal Migration Service (FMS) in Moscow, UNHCR obtained assurances that this group would be registered at Satsita, and the IDPs themselves were informed of this key decision the next day in Bella camp. At the meeting in Moscow, the FMS also agreed to restore utilities at Bella, while UNHCR undertook to provide tents for those who choose to relocate to Satsita camp. These agreements seem to have helped considerably in calming the tensions that arose in Bella two weeks ago, when the utilities were cut off one after the other.

The water supply to Bella was restored last Wednesday, and the gas supply on Friday. The restoration of these utilities meant that the IDPs were then prepared to agree to relocate voluntarily, since their rights were once again being respected. Bella Camp is now empty and work has already started to dismantle the camp infrastructure and move it to Satsita. Our staff in Ingushetia report that the IDPs themselves are very pleased with the smooth resolution of what at one time appeared to them to be a very threatening situation. UNHCR hopes that this more constructive approach, which took into account the rights and interests of all parties, will be replicated in the future, replacing heavy-handed tactics such as cutting off utilities.

Before the recent relocation began, Bella camp had just over 1,000 Chechens, while Satsita hosted more than 2,600. Now that the relocation has been completed, Satsita will have more than 3,500 residents, making it the largest of the four remaining camps in Ingushetia. Between them the camps are hosting around 11,000 IDPs with another 66,000 living in temporary settlements or private accommodation.