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UN starts integration plan for refugees in Russia's North Caucasus republics

UN starts integration plan for refugees in Russia's North Caucasus republics

The United Nations and its partners have launched a new project to facilitate the integration of displaced persons and refugees into host communities in the Russian Federation's North Caucasus republics by strengthening local economic development in a region where ethnic fighting has seen massacres and other attacks.

The initiative is the work of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Governments of North Ossetia and Ingushetia, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in the North Caucasus.

Co-funded by UNDP and the Governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom, it has an initial budget of $1,500,000 for 2005.

The programme opened its office in Vladikavkaz, capital of North Ossetia, last month and began executing seven projects to rehabilitate public areas and infrastructure in key communities, including repairs or improvements to roads, drainage, schools, community centres, parks, and play areas.

During its first months of operations it will also concentrate on establishing partnerships, carrying out area research assessments, and planning with governments in each republic to develop agreed frameworks for economic recovery and integration. Some 250 temporary jobs have been created.

Information and experiences gained through these efforts are expected to result in a three-year recovery programme that will increase communities' resilience and enhance employment generation through agricultural, small business and micro-lending activities.

North Ossetia was the scene of a massacre at a school in the town of Beslan in September, when 338 people were killed and 747 injured, many of them children, in a hostage taking linked to separatists in the nearby republic of Chechnya, where Russia has been fighting a war against separatists for the past several years.

In Ingushetia, the UN withdrew international staff in June following deadly fighting between rebels and government forces in which a local UN staffer was killed. The republic hosts some 50,000 internally displaced people from Ingushetia and neighbouring Chechnya living in temporary settlements or private accommodation.