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Ingushetia: UNHCR protests treatment of Chechen IDPs

Briefing notes

Ingushetia: UNHCR protests treatment of Chechen IDPs

15 August 2003

UNHCR is gravely concerned over the current situation in Ingushetia, where displaced Chechens have been shifted from place to place over the past two weeks and subjected to intense pressure by government officials to immediately return to Chechnya or to move elsewhere in Ingushetia.

Last Sunday, 20-30 Ingush policemen entered Askanovskie Garazhi temporary settlement in Ingushetia and forcibly moved 200 Chechen IDPs [Internally Displaced Persons] back to Bella Camp from which they had been evicted in an equally unceremonious manner, only days before, after living there for three years. The IDPs were put on trucks and returned to Bella camp but they were not allowed into their previous accommodation. Instead they were placed in decrepit buildings where they now live in substandard conditions.

UNHCR strongly objects to the aggressive and unacceptable manner in which IDPs from the camp were treated.

The federal and local authorities have repeatedly offered assurances that any return to Chechnya will be voluntary. However, return can only be considered voluntary if displaced persons are fully informed about conditions for return and if they have a genuine alternative available to allow them to remain in Ingushetia.

We reiterate our desire to work with the authorities to bring both accurate and timely information to the IDPs about the various shelter options available and to meet their humanitarian needs. While some people continue to return, many of the estimated 80,000 IDPs from Chechnya registered in Ingushetia express fears about returning to Chechnya because of the security situation there. Some 12,000 IDPs are now registered in five tented camps.

UNHCR is particularly concerned about the lack of a viable programme of alternative housing in Ingushetia for those IDPs who do not wish to return to Chechnya at this time. UNHCR and other international humanitarian organisations have offered the authorities their support in developing such alternative shelter, but the offer is yet to be accepted.

The recent eviction challenges the validity of official statements that all IDPs in Ingushetia may stay in Ingushetia until they wish to return in full safety and in dignity, and indicates that these statements may be without political commitment.