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North Caucasus: another camp for Chechens in Ingushetia to close

Briefing notes

North Caucasus: another camp for Chechens in Ingushetia to close

5 December 2003

The Federal Migration Service of the Russian Federation has informed UNHCR that it intends to close Camp A (also called "Alina" camp), in Ingushetia, for displaced people from Chechnya. Camp A is the third tent camp for displaced Chechens in Ingushetia to be closed in the past year. Iman camp at Aki Yurt closed in December, 2002, and B Camp or "Bella" closed in late September, 2003. UNHCR is closely following the process of closing the camp and is maintaining a daily presence there to reassure the displaced people and ensure that their rights are respected.

As of December 3, Camp A sheltered 818 displaced Chechens, according to the Danish Refugee Council's database. Displaced people living in the camp who do not wish to return to Chechnya at this stage are being offered alternative shelter in Ingushetia in Camp C ("Satsita") or in rooms in temporary settlements which have been recently rehabilitated by NGOs. UNHCR is monitoring the voluntariness of the process and, with NGO partners, assisting with the preparation of alternative shelter. UNHCR has also requested both the Federal Migration Service and the local authorities to maintain the gas, electricity and water supplies to "Alina" until all the displaced people voluntarily return or relocate.

For those choosing to relocate to "Satsita", UNHCR, together with the Ingushetia migration authorities and the displaced people themselves, is preparing the site and erecting tents. NGO partners are assisting with the gas, electricity and water connections. Care is being taken to ensure that the tents are properly spaced and fire and sanitary standards are respected. To ensure proper registration of the displaced people at their new location, the Migration Department is authorizing applications to relocate and sharing them with UNHCR.

To date, UNHCR field staff and monitors from UNHCR's implementing partner, Vesta, report that 103 families have expressed a wish to relocate to Camp C ("Satsita"), and 72 families plan to return to Chechnya. The remaining 27 families have not yet decided.

Some displaced people had already relocated to temporary settlements from Camp A before the latest census on Wednesday. Seventeen families moved to temporary settlements in November and another 11 families relocated over the first three days of December. On December 3, three families (15 people) from "Alina" returned to Chechnya.

As of December 3, the Migration Department had authorized 49 applications to relocate to "Satsita" and has shared these applications with UNHCR. Another ten applications are pending additional verification. As of December 4, 19 tents provided by UNHCR were installed in "Satsita", and are being connected to gas and electricity.

Also on Wednesday (December 3), an explosion took place near a checkpoint at the entrance to "Satsita" camp. No casualties were reported, but three UNHCR local staff were unable to leave the camp until UNSECOORD intervened with the security authorities.

In another development, UNHCR on 29 November undertook a mission to Grozny to monitor the situation of voluntary returnees in two temporary accommodation centres (TACs). Conditions were generally satisfactory, with the gas and electricity supplies regular and the heating functioning properly except in one building, where it was under repair. Water is supplied several times a day. Hygiene inside the TACs was good, but garbage collection outside needs improvement. The major concerns of the IDPs were no longer the conditions in the TACs but rather compensation for their destroyed houses and property and education facilities for their children.

During this mission UNHCR also visited one of the returnee families who have benefited from the pilot project through which UNHCR, together with Vesta, is providing 15 prefabricated "box tents" to voluntary returnees in Chechnya for use as temporary shelter while they rebuild their private accommodation. This family had managed to connect gas and electricity to the box tents which were installed inside the courtyard of their previous residence.