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Georgia: UN refugee agency suspends operations following security concerns

Georgia: UN refugee agency suspends operations following security concerns

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today said it has temporarily suspended its aid activities in Georgia’s Pankisi Valley region, which hosts some 3,800 Chechen refugees, following concerns about security and lawlessness.

The move comes after a request from Georgian authorities, and is the most recent in the region, where security concerns and lawlessness have prompted short-term suspensions of aid a number of times in the past, a spokesman for UNHCR said in Geneva.

“UNHCR hopes to resume work soon,” Ron Redmond told a press briefing. “Recent distribution of food and other aid items have provided the refugees with sufficient supplies through mid-August.”

UNHCR has been working with the Georgian Government on improving protection for the refugees in Pankisi, most of whom fled fighting in Chechnya in 1999, the spokesman said. Among other activities, UNHCR earlier this year supported the Government’s re-registration of the refugees in the valley by helping to plan the operation, providing funding and computer equipment, and training government staff.

“The re-registration allowed the government to develop a clearer picture of the refugee population in need of protection and assistance in Georgia,” Mr. Redmond said.