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Northern Caucasus: reluctance to return

Briefing notes

Northern Caucasus: reluctance to return

13 October 2000

Chechens living in displacement in neighbouring Ingushetia cite continued instability in Chechnya, widespread destruction, harassment by Russian troops and general lack of accommodation, health care and food as the main reasons why the bulk of some 140,000 people displaced from Chechnya are reluctant to go back.

People freshly displaced from Chechnya speak of low-level fighting, bomb attacks, shooting incidents, and continued presence of landmines. They also mention the "screening" of male returnees by the Russian forces.

UNHCR and Swiss Disaster Relief have launched a host family compensation programme to ease the burden of the influx on the impoverished local population in Ingushetia. The programme is also designed to reduce the danger of eviction faced by the Chechens who have outstayed their welcome. Each week, hundreds of people are identified as being under threat of eviction.

Intense work continues on the construction of a new tented camp in Severni in southern Ingushetia. The Ingush chapter of Russia's federal EMERCOM relief organisation - one of UNHCR's implementing partners in Ingushetia - is building access roads, laying gas and water pipes and installing electricity lines in the new camp dubbed "Alina". The camp will be able to house 4,000 people as early as late October. The first to move into the new camp will be Chechens currently residing in despicable conditions in railway carriages, as well as those facing eviction from Ingush families. Plans are also drawn for the construction of two more similar camps. Roughly half of the tents will be bought from Russian commercial companies while the other half will be donated by the Swedish Civil Defence Force.