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New Report on Chechen Refugees and IDPs

The Norwegian Refugee Council publishes "Whose Responsibility", an exhaustive report on Chechen IDPs and refugees. CAN interviews the author, Anne Marit Austbo
Chechen IDPs leaving their camps in Ingushetia, spring 2004 (PRIMA News Agency)
The context
As a result of a decade of war, violence, persecution and discrimination as well as the ensuing socio-economic crisis, hundreds of thousands have left Chechnya. The overwhelming majority of them have moved to other parts of Russia, mostly the Moscow area, where up to 300,000 are said to live. At least tens of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) have stayed on in Ingushetia and other North Caucasus republics, hesitant to return home yet unable to fully integrate into their host communities. More than 100,000 have left Russia for neighboring countries, the Middle
East and Europe, with a small trickle reaching the US and Canada. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), refugees from the Russian Federation, almost all of them Chechens, represent the largest group of asylum-seekers arriving in Europe since 2003. Displacement, exile and maintaining family ties across a global diaspora are today a central part of the Chechens' story.

The report
The Norwegian Refugee Council has recently published the first comprehensive report on the situation of Chechen IDPs in Russia and Chechen refugees in Europe and the post-Soviet space. The report is the result of intensive cooperation between European refugee aid organizations, which are linked through the Contact Group on Chechen Refugees and IDPs of the European Council for Refugees and Exiles. It highlights the continuing human rights violations in Chechnya and the lack of legal protections for most internally displaced Chechens elsewhere in the Russian Federation, concluding that neither Chechnya nor other parts of Russia are currently safe for Chechens. Consequently, the authors urge European states to ensure that all Chechen asylum-seekers have access to fair asylum procedures and are not returned to Russia at this point. The reality in Europe is much more complicated, of course. The reception of Chechen refugees differs so radically between countries that getting asylum in Europe can resemble a lottery. With few exceptions, states appear unwilling to grant Chechens full asylum as defined in the 1951 Geneva Convention, often opting for temporary, limited staying permits based on humanitarian concerns instead. Because of the "Dublin system", under which refugees can apply for asylum in only one EU member state (usually the one they entered first), thousands of Chechens have been transferred back and forth across Europe and are experiencing extended uncertainty.
However, there have been no mass deportations of failed asylum-seekers to Russia to date. The report includes policy guidelines for the Russian and European governments, which, if implemented, would lead to substantial improvements. The guidelines have also been detailed and published separately on ECRE's website.
Read the full report

Interview with Anne Marit Austbo
"[...] many government officials are truly concerned about the situation in Chechnya, but they are torn between this concern and domestic political pressures to reduce the level of asylum seekers in their countries and to maintain good relations with Russian authorities. I get the impression that they are sometimes worried that they have a more liberal policy than other countries because they fear that this will attract a higher number of asylum seekers to their country. I also sometimes feel that there is a lack of understanding of the very complex situation in Chechnya, and the fear that people there are living with."
Read the interview

To learn more about the situation of Chechen IDPs and refugees, please go to our refugees section.


The Chechnya Advocacy Network was formed out of deep concern about the alarming situation in Chechnya and the plight of Chechen refugees all over the world. We strive to raise awareness about the ongoing conflict, particularly its human dimension, advocate for a more engaged international response and work to develop adequate responses to the humanitarian crisis. We are neither pro-Chechen nor pro-Russian, but supportive of solutions that promise the best possible outcome for the people of Chechnya and the North Caucasus. As an open, non-partisan initiative we welcome everyone who shares these goals with us.

© Copyright 2004, Zachary Hutchinson
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