Residents of TACs in Chechnya receive promises of help with resettlement
By Liza Osmayeva, special to Prague Watchdog
By September this year, all temporary accommodation centres (TACs) within the Chechen Republic are scheduled to be disbanded and their inhabitants paid compensation, allocated housing or plots of building land or given other necessary assistance.
For the implementation of this task, last year the then Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov set up a special government commission to monitor the observance of the rules and regulations of residence in the TACs. According to some sources, during the year of its work on the republic’s territory seven TACs were closed down and more than 4,000 people were taken off the migration service’s register. The migration service representatives said that this resulted in savings of more than 120 million roubles.
According to data supplied by the Russian federal migration service's Chechnya section, in early April 2007 there were 25 TACs for internally displaced persons (IDPs) registered in the republic, containing 28,806 individuals or 5,069 families.
The contingent of people living there was very various, ranging from those who had accommodation of their own but tried to live on state benefits or receive free housing, all the way to those had never had accommodation or who lost it during the two military campaigns. For various reasons they are now unable to obtain the compensation that is due to them, but are not in a position to rebuild their own accommodation independently.
Tamara S., 52, is a female resident of a TAC located on Malgobekskaya street in Grozny’s Oktyabrsky district. She has four children, two of whom are minors. All five members of the family live in one small room. When they are gathered together there is hardly room to move. Initially Tamara lived in a tented refugee camp in the village of Znamenskaya. In 2003 she returned to Grozny, after she was allocated a room in the building of the former hostel on Bogdan Khmelnitsky Street.
A month ago, her TAC was disbanded. Of the 98 families living there, 40 were placed on the acutely needy list. Some of these families have received apartments from the “refused housing” fund of Grozny’s Staropromyslovsky district, while others have been allocated plots of land in the areas where they lived before the war, as well as a sum of money to build a house."
Our family wasn’t put on that list on the grounds that we have our own plot of land in the locality where we’re registered. We do indeed have some land there, but the house needs to be built, and where are we to get the money for that when we’re only just barely able to make ends meet? We approached the "Vesta" NGO and asked them to let us at least have a prefabricated dwelling in the short term. But even that request was refused: we were told it was because there are no communication facilities in our plot’s vicinity," Tamara says.
Rezida Taysumova lives in the same temporary accommodation centre. Just before the outbreak of hostilities in Chechnya, she and her parents moved to Grozny from Kazakhstan. They were unable to find accommodation in their homeland, and now the family of eight lives in a TAC. Taysumova claims that a month ago she was compelled under false pretences to sign a prepared statement requesting that her children be taken off the migration service register and state benefit list.
"My husband worked in the law enforcement agencies. He died two years ago, and now I’m left alone with two young children. At first we lived in a tented refugee camp, then we were allocated a room in a TAC on Bogdan Khmelnitsky Street. When the TAC was disbanded, as a single mother I was put on the acutely needy list. I wasn’t given a plot of land, yet the children and I were taken off the register by the migration service. I don’t have any accommodation of my own, or the means to acquire any. I get a disability pension, but it’s only just enough for medical treatment. If they evict me from here, I don’t know where the children and I will go,” Rezida worries.
The situation with regard to the rights of internally displaced persons living in TACs was discussed recently at a meeting of representatives of local and international non-governmental organizations with the human rights ombudsman of the Chechen Republic. The human rights defenders noted that a large proportion of TAC residents are living in extremely harsh conditions.
"Both the NGOs and the Chechen human rights ombudsman’s office are receiving a lot of appeals from IDPs who complain that they’ve been unfairly taken off state benefits and are being evicted from the TACs where they’re living, even though they have nowhere to go. We also have evidence that some TAC residents are being forced to take themselves off the register, and some citizens are being made to sign documents without knowing what’s in them. We’ve been discussing all this with the Chechen human rights ombudsman," one of the meeting’s participants told Prague Watchdog.
However, the republic’s authorities say that no family of IDPs will be left without a roof over their heads. Work is currently being carried out in the TACs to bring a greater degree of exactitude to the lists of people who have accommodation of their own, and those who need it.
“While the first group aren’t treated with much ceremony (they’re simply removed from the migration service register), the problem of the second category of IDPs requires a more differentiated approach. That’s what the working group of the government commission for the restoration of order to TACs is engaged in.
"We’ve identified 100 IDP families who are in acute need of accommodation and will not be able to acquire their own in the short term. The numbers of people who need housing are very large, and we’re not in a position to help them all at once, so we’re working with the most vulnerable: families with many children, orphans, semi-orphans, and the disabled. So far there are 100 of them. As soon as we’re given the signal that the buildings are ready, we’ll take those people to Argun and move them in,” Khozh-Baudi Estamirov, the working group’s head, told local media.
At an earlier date, the Argun apartments were allocated from the reconstruction fund for the resettlement of people from four Grozny districts – 25 apartments for each district. The accommodation is private and secure, and includes furniture and all fittings. However, not everyone is happy with the prospect of going to live in Argun. According to some sources, ten of the 100 families have already turned down the offer of the apartments, saying that they don’t want to leave Grozny.
"Both the commission and the working group were specially created so that when people leave the TACs, they’re not just put out on the street, but are helped to resettle. We all realize that the republic today is unable to find housing for those who need it. And so we’re addressing this issue in stages. The first priority is given to the problems of the very poor families. Some of the issues are solved by the allocation of plots of land, so that people can build houses for themselves gradually," Prague Watchdog was told by another member of the working group who wishes to remain anonymous.
"The working group is made up of representatives from more than twenty districts of the republic. Their aim is to make a check of those IDPs who are registered in their areas, have received compensation for lost housing, or have accommodation of their own. On the basis of their reports we’ll be able to establish the exact number of people who are in need of housing. This information will be passed to the governmental commission, so it can take appropriate action," he added.
"People who already have housing of their own are taken off the state benefit register. For example, since January this year more than 20,000 people have been removed from it. Of the remaining 5,069, about 400 families have filed for compensation but have been unable to get it because at the time of filing their applications they weren’t registered as living in those homes. This is a problem the republic’s government has taken to the federal authorities, and I think it will soon receive a favourable resolution," the interviewee said.
Earlier, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov also announced that "all our republic’s residents should have a home of their own." "In this connection, we have an obligation this year to implement the realization of the ‘A home for each low-income family’ programme. And during the first phase of the programme, in the first half-year, we’ll provide housing for at least 200 families. I think that by the end of the year all the TACs will be closed and their residents will receive well-appointed accommodation," Kadyrov said at the time.
The “Vozrozhdenie” (Revival) cottage village in the Staropromyslovsky district of the Chechen capital is also intended for residents of TACs which are being closed down. The complex of 85 apartments is located near the highway crossing the republic. The apartments have gas, water, electricity, and access roads. On May 1, 84 families of internally displaced persons moved into them.
However, the number of those in need of housing is much greater. How and with what financial resources the republic’s authorities will solve this problem no one knows. For the fact remains that to this day there is not a single integrated programme for the rehabilitation of IDPs. Nor are funds for this purpose included in the republic’s budget.
Meanwhile, according to various data, there are still 3,000 to 5,000 IDPs from Chechnya in compact accommodation points in Ingushetia. Until recently, the issues connected with the return of these people to their homeland was being dealt with by the IDP committee which was specially set up for this purpose in 2005.
A few weeks ago, following a decision by the Chechen government, this committee was abolished. The belief in the republic is that the committee had completed its task and there was no need for its continued existence. So far the return of IDPs from Ingushetia has been spontaneous. People are coming back and making their own arrangements for resettlement in their homeland.
(D/T) RELATED ARTICLES:
· Chechen authorities plan to return refugees living in Ingushetia to Chechnya (PW, 2.8.2006)
· Situation surrounding residents of TACs in Chechnya remains unclear (PW, 26.5.2006)