18 September 2003, 18:29

Tent camp for refugees is being closed in Ingushetia

A passport-checking operation began on the early morning of September 17 in the Bella tent camp for displaced Chechens. It was conducted by officers of the Ingush Interior Ministry's Migration Service. The Ingush Migration Service intends to close this camp and to relocate its inhabitants to Chechnya or some other place in Ingushetia.

From the beginning of September the displaced persons in this camp have been subjected to harsh and uncivilized pressure from the camp's chief, officials, police that are urging them to vacate the site. On that day migration officers were confiscating temporary registration cards from refugees, and one woman refugee was forced to let them have her passport.

UNHCR officials are requesting the authorities to find viable alternative accommodation sites before the camp is shut down. As Vera Soboleva, who works for the UNHCR office in Moscow, reported, in late August a UNHCR team together with members from other humanitarian agencies and representatives of the Ingush authorities found in Ingushetia 10 buildings suitable for temporary accommodation of displaced Chechens.

According to Ms. Soboleva, there are 140 rooms in these houses that need some minor improvements to make them suitable for living. Foreign relief organizations are now deciding which of them will repair this or that building. These buildings are specifically meant for those displaced in Bella that do not want to return to Chechnya. Several families will be moved to the Satsita camp and UNHCR workers are planning to set up extra tents for them on September 18.

In the meantime, the Bella tent camp, which, according to international law, could be liquidated only after voluntary relocation of its inhabitants to alternative accommodation sites suitable for living, was closed for journalists and members of human rights organizations on September 16. The Ingush police did not allow any of them into the camp. The day before the camp was visited by Akhmed Parchiyev, the chief of the Ingush Migration Service. He was demanding that people leave the camp, while law enforcement officers were telling street traders to remove their stalls from the area adjoining the camp.

There were also attempts to cut gas in the camp on September 17. However, after the UNHCR had intervened, the Ingush authorities promised to clear off debts to the gas supplier and gas supply was resumed. According to people working for the Ingushenergo electricity company, earlier in the day electricity was cut in the tent camp on instructions of the head of this company.

Source: Prima News Agency

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