chechen refugees in eastern europe

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The situation of chechen refugees in russia

24.Dec.01 - The military operation in Chechnya 1999-2001 has been justified to public by "restoring the legal order", that means finishing with banditry, kidnappings and other human right violations going on in the area of the republic. However the offensive has not been able, and will not be able to restore security and civil rights in the area, since the operation itself includes gross violations of international human right treaties which Russia has signed. Notwithstanding the numerous announcements of government officials about successful finishing of the counter-terrorist offensive, army units still continue operation causing suffering to peaceful inhabitants of the area.

Situation in Chechnya

Currently most serious human right violations are committed during so-called "Zachistka", that means mop-up operations. Zachistka, a term which originally comes from police slang, means thorough search of guerrillas and their supporters in every household n the village. "Zachistka" develops often to random murder, violence and looting. Often especially young male inhabitants are incarcerated to jails and temporary isolation units, which are called "filtration points", meant to make out guerrillas among the population. The method of the "filtration" is cruel, it consists of verbal abuse, beating and torture. The aim is to get either confession, proof against other incarcerated individuals or promise to collaborate with federal authorities in the future. Most of the victims are freed without charges. But freed young men are in often in a bad physical and mental condition, shocked and crippled. Relatives of arrested are not informed about the arrest, place where he is kept or charges. People just "disappear". There are known cases where bodies of persons arrested by military or police have been found with traces of violent death.

In the beginning of July 2001 more than 1500 peaceful inhabitants of Sernovodsk and Assinovskiy were rounded up and driven away from the villages, to be beaten up, tortured and humiliated. Many of them had their property robbed or destroyed. And this is just the top of the iceberg from what is going on in Chechnya as a whole. The events in Assinovskiy and Sernovodsk caused such a big political attention in both Russia and abroad, that first time since the beginning of the "anti-terrorist operation" in Chechnya when leadership of general prosecutor's office had to admit massive human rights violations of federal army against peaceful inhabitants of the region.

In the end of 1999 the living conditions of inhabitants in Chechnyan republic became catastrophic. Since the first days of the large-scale military operation, right of Russian citizens to freely move and to choose their place of living was grossly violated. Inhabitants of Chechnya were forbidden to move away from the zone of war. Ingushetian republic was the only area of Russia which took people escaping from Chechnya. Thus the population of the republic quickly grew more than 60%, Ingushetia with population of 310 000 inhabitants had to to settle 200 000 refugees. Streams of refugees to other regions were only small fractions from these numbers. Moving away from the warzone demands humiliating procedure of repetitive registrations, not regulated by any organ of justice, right to leave was usually also limited to most closest settlements near the border, in which new violations of the civil rights took place.

Anti-Chechnyan information campaign lead to situation where families most capable to move to other Russian regions did not found sympathy and understanding from side of the local inhabitants. Local authorities have a lot of power to influence local attitudes. One may make a conclusion that closing Chechnyan borders and isolating the population to inside of the the so-called "security zones" was a planned aim of the operation from the very beginning.

In the end of 1999 representatives of the federal authority declared several Chechnyan settlements as "security zones". It was aim to return original inhabitants to these areas. Outside these "security zones" authorities refused to register inhabitants with "blanket number 7", required if person applies for some minimal social security. The idea was to move people from frontline to these zones, as well as those who escaped to Ingushetia. Although very soon it became evident that this recommendation was completely groundless. Since status of "security zone" was unilaterally declared by the federal authorities, guerrillas did not followed the order and operated in the area, causing losses to both federal army and peaceful inhabitants. From December 1999 to January 2000 Ministry of extraordinary situations of the Russian Federation to violently push refugees left for Ingushetia back to Chechnya for the first time. However due to plenty of reasons, such as the objective conditions in Chechnya, protests of human rights and international organisations and resistance of refugees themselves this operation failed.

Situation in the refugee camps of Ingushetia

Some refugees in Ingushetia stay in tent camps, others stay with friends or relatives or rent some living space. Density of people in houses and tent camps creates bad hygienic conditions which lead to epidemics of infection diseases. Education of the children is only partly organised, there is a lack of teachers, spaces and materials.

During the whole military operation financing of refugee aid in Ingushetia was clearly not sufficient. Few times supplies from federal structures stopped almost completely, which pushed situation to a verge of a catastrophe. From mid-June of to mid-August 2000 there were no any supplies to refugees living in area of Ingushetia. Already in the beginning of June migration service of Ingushetia announced to government of Russian Federation that arrears in payments may cause a stoppage of transfer of food products to refugees. 19th of July service of warm food had to be stopped. Due to big debts of Ingushian Republic to companies Ingushgaz, Ingushenergo and Vodokanala, electric supplies to refugee camps were from time to time halted in June of year 2000. Owners of houses in which refugees were living were not paid any compensation, altought this should be done according to the law. If the tolerance of owners is finished, Ingushetia will face an extreme situation since refugee camps are already overloaded.

The medical problems of refugees are notable. People with infectional diseases and open form of tuberculosis live in common tents and wagons with healthy people, including children. It is often not even possible to diagnose tuberculosis, since in the Ingushetia there are not fluorographs. Most common diseases are intestinal diseases, cold, bronchitis, pneumonia, heart diseases, nervous and mental diseases and itch. There is a severe lack of medical supplies. There are not enough of antibiotics, no anaesthetics, no syringes, no gauzes, no anticeptides and no heart pressure medicine. One can move to a polyclinic only with a bus, but refugees may not afford a ticket. There is not functioning ambulance in camps due to lack of cars and gasoline. Hospitals are full with seriously ill, who are lying in hallways and halls. Medicine, dressing and syringes lack even in hospitals. Wounds are cared about for free, but relatives must pay for dressing and drugs.

Granting the status of a forced immigrant

Russian laws make difference between a status of refugee, and a status of a forced immigrant - forced immigrant is a Russian national where a refugee is not. All Chechenyan refugees are seen as forced immigrants. One may not say that conditions on which these statuses are given are satisfactory.

People who face the problem of achieving status of a forced immigrant in the first place are the residents of the Chechenyan Republic who have left it because of the wide military operations going on in this region which our authorities call antiterrorist operation. At the present time there are approximately 160 thousands of Chechenyan residents in Ingushetiya only. However, according to our estimations, their total number reaches 300 thousands. Unlike the period between 1991 and 1996 , which is the period before and after the First War in Chechnya, the victims of military operations in Chechnya in 1999-2000 years aren't practically given status of a forced immigrant The reason appears to be simple: the first wave of Chechenyan residents consisted mainly of Russians. The Chechenyans at that time sheltered themselves in the villages which almost weren't exposed to bombing The heads of territorial migration departments honestly admit that there exists an instruction not to give the Chechenyans status of a forced immigrant. Since the September of 1999, since the beginning of the Second War in Chechnya, the status of a forced immigrant was given to less than 2 thousand Chechenyan residents when there are not less than 300 thousands of those who have left the republic.

Legislation of subjects of the Federation of Russia that affects the granting of the status of a forced immigrant

In subjects (autonomous republics, autonomous areas, regions) of the Russian federation the granting of the status of a forced immigrant and of a refugee is closely connected registration regime. Two categories of registration exist, registration at the place of residence and registration at the place of stay. In a number of regions in the Russian Federation the restrictive order concerning the registration at the place of residence and at the place of stay is being established. For instance, in Krasnodar Krai it was forbidden to register a person at the place of residence if he or she doesn't have any close relatives who have been permanent residents of this Krai for more than 10 years. It is still forbidden even to register a husband or a wife of a Russian resident if the have married less than 5 years before. Despite the fact that the first restriction has been abolished the commissions of migration still de facto maintains the same policy.

In Moscow the registration of refugees and forced immigrants is provided only for those who want to register at the living space of their relatives, but not for those residing in a place of some local who has agreed to help them with the shelter but is not a relative

In Stavropol Krai, Rostov, Volgograd, Astrakhan and Vologoda regions and in Saint-Petersburg laws jeopardizing the rights of migrants for a registration were adopted. They were either appealed, abolished or even were not promulgated but still those laws strongly affect the decision on registration. In Saint-Petersburg the status is given to Russians and to those of Chechenyans who indicate as a reason of their departure not the military operations, looting and outrages of Russian military men but refer to the persecution by Islamic fundamentalists or by the followers of the Mashadov's regime. The absence of the registration leads to the restriction of numerous rights of a resident of the Russian Federation including the right to receive medical services, education, allowances and these circumstances make the case of finding a job extremely difficult.

Social position of Chechenyan refugees


A lot of migrant children turn out to be out of the educational system because their parent don't have a registration in the Department of Internal Affairs. As a rule the forced migrants' children are admitted neither to children's homes nor to internats where they could be staying while their parents are looking for a temporary living place or a job. And thus during the whole period of seeking a place to live the kids cannot attend school. The Chechenyan residents who have left the republic because of the renewal of hostilities there face huge problems concerning their kids' education. There was an order of Moscow Educational Committee defining that children from other cities can be admitted to schools or school-internats only if they have the registration documents. This order has been appealed in the Supreme Court and it has been abolished but practically the heads of the educational institutions continue to demand the registration certificate from children. It is very hard for Chechenyan residents to place their kids to schools even if they have all of the registration papers, because of the every day chauvinism towards Caucasians spread in Russia which has been formed under the influence of mass-media propaganda and everyday discrimination. The parents get refusals while trying to place their kids to educational institutions on the pretext of numerous reasons. Besides, there exists no educational system for refugee children not speaking Russian.

Health care

Practically an access to get free medical services for forced immigrants depends on whether they have a registration, a status or a citizenship and whether there are means for that in federal and local budgets. In the majority of Russian regions the policies allowing to get a free medical aid are given only to the citizens of the Russian Federation and to the immigrant with status, registered at the place of residence or stay. Moreover in a number of regions there are some additional terms of granting such policies. In Moscow. for example, newcomers can get this policy only if they have a registration at the of residence for more than 6 months. When at the same time the registration in the capital is usually given for a period not exceeding 6 months. Only people with the status of a forced immigrant or a refugee registered in the Moscow Migration Service can get a registration for more than 6 months. That's why the residents of Chechnya who live in Moscow and the majority of whom doesn't have the status of a forced immigrant practically don't have an opportunity to get free health care. In Russia people who suffer from severe chronic diseases ( such as oncological, tuberculosis, diabetes, bronchial asthma, ichemic heart diseases and others) have a right to receive free medicaments. In condition that the price of a medicine often exceeds the size of pension, the opportunity of using such privileges becomes a matter of life and death. However he majority of refugees and forced immigrants (including those with the status), who have a right to receive free medicines, can't take advantage of this privilege. In Moscow - because they don't have a registration at the place of residence, in the provinces - because of the absence of means in the local budgets for financing these privileges.


Property rights of people who have suffered because of hostilities are not protected by any acts of legislation. Up to now there is no any document or any act concerning compensations of loss of dwelling and property for the victims of the first war in Chechnya. The resolution "About the confirmation of regulations of providing forced migrants in the Russian Federation with dwelling" doesn't contain anything about the state's responsibility in the question of providing forced migrants with a place to live. Forced immigrants can't place (register) their close persons at the temporary place of residence even in such obvious cases as marriage, birth of children, arrival of aged parents. The circle of forced immigrants who can get a temporary place of living is limited and it consists only of families where there is no person who has an own living place or rents it. The reasons of such restrictions are not very clear. If one of the members of a big family gets a small room as an inheritance or if he or she (an ill person or a mother with a child) gets an opportunity to rent some sort of dwelling this doesn't mean that other members of the family are provided with a place to live or are able to do that in the near future. In the resolution the process of providing permanent place for living isn't described in details and the creation of a single list of every person in the queue at the place of residence is in contemplation. This leads to the fact that those forced immigrants who don't have a registration at the place of residence and registered only at the place of stay won't be able to get a permanent dwelling because their names won't be on that list.


The whole acuteness of the employment problem is caused not only by the general economic situation in the country but also by the fact that state institutions create barriers for immigrants when they try to find a job on themselves. The state's help in the problem of refugees' employment consists of allocation of means for the creation of work places for them. But the means allocated for these purposes are so miserable that they don't really have any impact on the level of employment among refugees. The existing practice of employing only those who have a registration deprives a considerable number of refugees of an opportunity to independently find a job. In Moscow and in the Moscow region this practice is fixed by the rules of registration which contain a paragraph establishing high fines for heads of those companies, institutions and organisations based on different forms of property in case of employing citizens without registration. The absence of registration at the place of residence (permanent registration) deprives immigrants of an opportunity to receive unemployment allowance, get a free professional education or a training for a new profession, guaranteed by laws "On refugees" and "On forced immigrants", which would really increase chances to get employed.

Pension and Social Allowances

The pension legislation of the Russian federation ensures the provision of state pensions for those who live inside the country. The law "On state pensions in the Russian Federation" doesn't make realisation of citizens' right for pension dependent on registration. However in practice the social security agencies, which are conducting the provision of pensions , provide pensions only for those who are registered at the place of residence in the area. The exclusions are possible only for refugees and forced immigrants who have the appropriate status: they can get pensions even at the place of stay. Citizen who doesn't have a registration doesn't practically have an opportunity to receive a pension.

Chechenyan residents (excluding those who have registered for pension outside Chechnya before the December, 1997) can get registered for pension outside the republic only if they have a registration and a pension file. But the majority of Chechenyan residents who were leaving the republic during hostilities weren't able to take their pension files with them. In combination with the fact that during the so-called "anti-terror operation whirlwind of counter-terror" the Ministry of Internal Affairs has secretly prohibited the registration of Chechenyans (this prohibition is still in force), these circumstances deprive almost all of pensioners and invalids from Chechnya who are now living outside the republic even a minimum pension. The same situation is with providing refugees and forced immigrants with other social allowances, including children's allowances.

Discrimination on the basis of the nationality

In area of other Russian regions Chechenyans are practically treated as enemies. In Moscow there are passport check-ups and razzias on a daily basis. Police targets people who might belong to some ethnic minority. It is not the people police is interested about but their registration. People who haven't got registration might be arrested from few hours to few days, and beaten up and robbed while arrested. Valid registration documents might be destroyed by the police during the check-up. Moscow-based human right organisations have documented a series of large-scale operations of security organs against Chechenyans and Ingushetians - check-ups, arbitrary arrests, house searches including torture and verbal racial abuse.

Many Moscow residents support official policy towards immigrants from other areas, and towards refugees in special. Regional organs of power create public opinion by feeding mainstream media with fake records of crimes committed by immigrants, citizens of other CIS states and refugees. Moscow officials are not only committing xenophobic remarks, but also calls to a straightforward discrimination of immigrants. 12th of July 1996, following an explosion in a trolley-bus Moscow city major Luzhkov said in television discussion that all Chechnyans residing in Moscow should be removed, to which a high police official replied "Well, if you only allow, I will take the terror to the streets" to which Luzhkov replied "Yes, let us move all Chechen diaspora out from here". This kind of discriminatory police goes on in all the regions, especially in bigger cities.

Human right organisations may affirm that in Russia, and in Moscow in particular, goes on a campaign of framing Chechenians for crimes. This was de facto confessed by procurator's office of Moscow in a meeting with representatives of three human right organisations. Peak of this campaign was seen in September-October of 1999 after explosions of houses in Moscow. This even though there was never any proof about involvement of a single Chechen, not to talk about Chechen separatist groups behind these explosions. Since August of year 2000 this campaign again gained some momentum. This saw Arbitrary arrests for few days for charges of "hooliganism", as well as illegal house searches with planted stolen goods, drugs, guns and explosives. Volgograd area saw pogroms against people who had escaped from Chechnya. In December a gossip that Chechens were planning to explode a hydroelectric station was spread in the area. This gave pretext to a repression campaign, and it was claimed that a terrorist act was avoided due to this. In April of 2001, skinheads celebrating birthday of Adolph Hitler killed a Chechen boy.

As a conclusion a right to free movement and a choice of place of residence inside Russian Federation is banned from Chechenyans. They are not granted the same constitutional rights as other Russians. Living in Chechnya is a constant danger to life. Social situation of many refugees might be best characterised as a misery. Chechnyans are targeted with discrimination and persecution due to their nationality.

October 2001

[This article is based on materials from the of Human rights centre 'memorial' ...]
[... and the Civic Assistance Committee]

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