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High Commissioner in Russia

Briefing notes

High Commissioner in Russia

17 January 2002

High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers wraps up his visit to the Russian Federation today with meetings in Moscow with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and with UN agencies. On Thursday, the High Commissioner met with Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, whose office is now in charge of migration issues. They discussed co-operation on refugee and migration issues, reducing the problem of statelessness in Russia, and prospects for increasing humanitarian aid to the North Caucasus region. The High Commissioner raised questions on implementation of Russia's refugee law and ways to strengthen asylum, improve documentation for asylum-seekers, and shorten waiting periods. The High Commissioner also noted UNHCR's concerns about xenophobia in Russia towards refugees and displaced persons. A number of xenophobic incidents have occurred in recent months, including an attack outside an asylum-seeker centre in Moscow in late August that left one Angolan dead.

Thursday's meetings also included EMERCOM - Russia's emergency ministry - the Nationalities Minister and the Minister for Reconstruction in Chechnya. Lubbers also gave a lecture at the State University of Management.

The High Commissioner pointed to security in Chechnya as the main impediment to the return of displaced people and called for greater involvement by the Chechen people themselves in strengthening security in the republic. He urged that displaced people have the possibility to obtain proper documents as soon as possible. He said it was important to search for a political solution to the 28-month-old conflict. "Humanitarian workers are doing everything they can, but have only limited influence, which makes finding a political settlement all the more essential," he said.

On Wednesday, Lubbers toured tent camps and other settlements for displaced Chechens in Ingushetia and visited families hosting displaced people. He said he was impressed by the hospitality of the Ingush host families who house the vast majority of the 150,000 displaced Chechens in the republic.