Chechen authorities plan to return refugees living in Ingushetia to Chechnya
By Liza Osmayeva
CHECHNYA / INGUSHETIA – A few days ago representatives of a special commission of the Moscow-backed Chechen government began work with migration officials of Ingushetia's Interior Ministry on an inspection of Chechen refugee camps in Ingushetia.
"People must live under normal conditions, in their own houses, and not in these pitiful sheds, and we will do everything possible to help them in this. We are ready to render any assistance if a person really needs it. Citizens whose accommodation is still intact must return to their homes, while those who have nowhere to go will be given suitable help with resettlement, including the obtaining of compensation. These are our citizens, and everything that we are doing today is being done for them," says Imran, one of the members of the Special Commission for Checking the Observance of Norms and Regulations of Residence in Temporary Accommodation Centres (TACs).
It should be recalled that the Special Commission began its work in Chechnya two months ago, after the Moscow-backed Premier Ramzan Kadyrov made some extremely harsh public remarks about the TACs. In July Kadyrov announced that a maximum reduction must be made in the total number of displaced persons by August 5, adding that all residents of TACs in Ingushetia will be returned home by the end of the current year. At the same time, Kadyrov stressed that one ought not to “go too far” on this sensitive issue, and that the refugees should only be returned on a voluntary basis.
The Special Commission is made up of district administrative heads, together with representatives of the republic’s Migration Service and law-enforcement agencies. In the course of the commission’s activity, several TACs in the Chechen Republic have already been dismantled, with more than half of the people living in them for one reason or another taken off the books. It is now continuing its work in Ingushetia.
A process of re-registration is currently taking place in the compact accommodation points (CAPs) for Chechen refugees in Ingushetia, in the course of which the precise number of internally displaced persons living in the camps is being established. In future, this work will be continued by Chechen village administrative heads, who will directly attempt to "persuade" their people to return home.
In fact, many forced migrants really would like to return home, but for various reasons are in no hurry to do so. One of these reasons remains, as before, the problem of the lack of personal security in their home country, although, as the internally displaced people acknowledge, this issue is not as urgent as it was previously. The foreground of concern is now occupied by questions of a social and economic nature – the lack of money for the restoration of housing, communications and jobs.
Some of these people simply have nowhere to go - their houses in Chechnya were destroyed in the course of military operations, and it is just as hard to obtain compensation for them today as it was several years ago. Others have managed to obtain employment during their stay in Ingushetia and are now afraid of losing this relatively stable income, and so on.
"It has to be admitted that at present the problem of security in Chechnya is not as serious for the refugees as it was. The basic reason why people are in no hurry to return home is the lack of housing and of money for its restoration. In many districts of Grozny the problem of the lack of drinking water is the same as before. You have to buy water from private sellers. What’s more, there are definitely not enough jobs in Chechnya, and how am I to support three children and a sick wife?" complains Shamil, a resident of Grozny’s Staropromyslovsky district, who is residing in one of the CAPs in Nazran.
Today some 60 CAPs are functioning on the territory of Ingushetia. According to different sources, somewhere from 10,000 to 13,000 internally displaced persons from the Chechen Republic are living in them. There are rumours that it is planned to close down Ingushetia’s CAPs for Chechen refugees by the autumn of 2006.
Meanwhile, some observers and local human rights activists are disturbed by the situation that is unfolding. In their opinion, if the closures take place, in the near future thousands of people may end up on the street. Aslambek Apayev, director of the Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Forced Migrants, a non-profit organization, believes that signs the refugees are to be moved out can already be observed.
"There have recently been some alarm signals from the CAPs in Ingushetia. People are reporting that the owners of the businesses on whose territory the CAPs are located are telling the Chechen refugees to vacate the accommodations they’re occupying. Thus, for example, the inhabitants of the Angusht CAP in Nazran have been given until August 1 to leave the camp’s territory. If they don’t comply, they’re being threatened with a cut-off of gas and electricity," Apayev told Prague Watchdog’s correspondent.
The situation in Ingushetia’s other CAPs, and also in the private sector, is no better. The non-governmental organization Chechen Committee for National Salvation reports that as a result of the visit by representatives of the Special Commission to Ingushetia, more than 50% of Chechen refugees in the Malgobeksky district have been dropped from the lists of recipients of humanitarian aid.
In Apayev’s view, what is happening is directly connected with the authorities’ plans to put into liquidation all the CAPs in Chechnya and Ingushetia. "The authorities have repeatedly made attempts of this kind. All kinds of methods, including the disconnection of electricity, gas and water, have been used to force the refugees to return to their native land. Now attempts are once again being made to persuade them to go home, this time without anything being promised in return. I consider that what is happening is a gross violation of the forced migrants’ rights, since the majority of them have nowhere to live in Chechnya, and no alternative accommodation is being offered to them," he says.
It should be recalled that last November Ingushetia’s Chief Sanitary Inspector issued a special order which recommended the closure from January 1, 2006 of all 67 CAPs for Chechen refugees on the territory of Ingushetia. The reason given was the failure of the CAPs to meet the requirements of Sanepidnadzor, the state sanitary authority. However, the intervention of human rights activists and the Chechen authorities succeeded in delaying the process of closing down the CAPs, and according to some reports the agreements for the lease of accommodations to the refugees were extended until autumn 2006.
Translated by David McDuff.