Russia: UN official alarmed at plans to close displaced persons' camp in Ingushetia

Russia: UN official alarmed at plans to close displaced persons' camp in Ingushetia

The United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator today voiced his alarm at reported plans by Russian authorities to close a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Ingushetia this weekend.

A statement released in New York said Kenzo Oshima is concerned for the welfare of over 1,000 persons living in Aki Yurt who fled prolonged conflict in the neighbouring republic of Chechnya, Russian Federation.

Camp residents wish to return to Chechnya, but they are reluctant to do so now because of insecurity in the republic and the lack of shelter, basic services, and economic opportunities there, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

"Returns can only be considered voluntary if no risk exists to returnees' life, safety, liberty, or health," Mr. Oshima said. "IDPs considering return must be given options, including the possibility of staying in their current place of sojourn or resettling in other parts of the Russian Federation of their choice."

The Emergency Relief Coordinator called on the authorities to make "all possible efforts" to ensure that IDPs participate fully, based on sufficient and accurate information, in the planning of their own return or resettlement.

He also noted the UN's continued commitment to dialogue with the Russian authorities on this and other humanitarian issues related to Chechnya.

The UN is currently providing protection and assistance to over 1 million displaced people in Ingushetia and Chechnya. Insecurity in the region runs high, while years of conflict have destroyed much of the area's capacity to shelter people, leaving scarce opportunity for economic activity.

In response, UN agencies are seeking $34 million from donors for protection and assistance activities in 2003.