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Last Updated: Friday, 15 August, 2003, 20:52 GMT 21:52 UK
UN fear for Chechen refugees
Refugees in Sleptsovskaya, Ingushetia
Around 12,000 refugees live in five tented camps in Ingushetia
The United Nations refugee agency has expressed concern over the plight of refugees from Chechnya, who it says are being pressured to return home from Ingushetia.

It says some refugees have been treated in an aggressive and unacceptable manner by government officials, and calls for greater co-operation from the authorities in the provision of shelter.

In one case, the UNHCR says 200 Chechen refugees in Ingushetia - which neighbours Chechnya - were forcibly evicted from one tent camp to another, only to be returned days later.

Since their return, the refugees have been prevented from reoccupying their former accommodation and forced to live in decrepit buildings, the statement said.

"The UNHCR strongly objects to the aggressive and unacceptable manner in which internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the camp were treated," said agency spokesman Kris Janowski.

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

'Voluntary return'

The statement comes one day after the pro-Moscow administration in Chechnya said it would repatriate 10,000 refugees from Ingushetia.

Russia has vowed to dismantle all five tent camps - home to around 12,000 of the 80,000 displaced Chechens in the republic - before presidential elections in Chechnya on 5 October.

But authorities in Ingushetia have assured the UNHCR that any returns to Chechnya will be voluntary.

The agency says that for this to be the case displaced people would have to receive accurate information about the conditions for their return, and have the option of a genuine alternative in Ingushetia if they choose to stay.

Russia pursues Chechen rebels
27 Sep 02  |  Europe
Chechnya's female bombers
07 Jul 03  |  Europe

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