The following is the first of two recent Prague Watchdog reports on TACs (temporary accomodation centres) and "compact settlements" in Chechnya and neighbouring Ingushetia. These have been housing Chechen refugees, but are increasingly threatened with closure, a step which will mean homelessness for large numbers of civilians, especially women and children. The translation is mine.
Situation surrounding residents of TACs in Chechnya remains unclear
By Liza Osmayeva
CHECHNYA – A month ago the head of the Moscow-backed Chechen government Ramzan Kadyrov called for the need to dismantle all the temporary accommodation centres (TACs), which house refugees who have returned from Ingushetia. Referring to them as "nests of criminality, addiction and debauchery", he demanded that the local authorities and law-enforcement agencies put the situation in order.
For this purpose a special commission has been created in the republic to control the observance of standards and regulations relating to internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in the TACs. It includes the heads of district administrations, representatives of the law enforcement agencies, and the migration service.
As a result of the commission’s work, the managements of nearly all the TACs on Chechen territory were replaced during May of this year. According to some reports, this was prompted by the revelation of numerous cases of embezzlement and other abuses on the part of camp commandants.
"The commission’s primary task is to track down persons who have accommodation of their own and are living in the TACs illegally, and also to double-check the lists of those IDPs who are actually in need of targeted assistance. A separate solution will be adopted for each specific case. People whose accommodation has been preserved must return to their homes. Citizens who have lost their accommodation and who have nowhere to go will be given help to rebuild and restore their ruined homes. No one plans to turn people out into the street,” says the Migration Office of the Chechen Republic.
At the same time, local human rights activists note that the real situation is somewhat different. In their opinion, the campaign to dismantle the temporary accommodation centres in Chechnya is being accompanied by violations of their residents’ rights. According to a report by the Memorial human rights centre, two TACs located on Depovskaya Street in the town of Gudermes were recently closed on the pretext of major refurbishment. However, no alternative accommodation was offered to their residents.
“A similar situation is developing in the TACs of Grozny’s Staropromyslovsky district. After an announcement by the district head that the TAC buildings needed to be freed to serve as schools and polyclinics, regular identity checks began to be carried out. People can be evicted merely on the basis of the fact that they were not present during a night raid. Moreover, the members of the commission take no account of the reason for which a person was absent,” a worker of the Nazran-based Memorial human rights centre told PW’s correspondent.
The recent increase in the frequency of identity checks, and in particular the mechanism by means of which they are carried out, is giving rise to many protests by IDPs. People complain that various far-fetched pretexts are being used in order to deprive them of their IDP status. "We can’t leave the TAC even in the daytime, because if a person isn’t present during the check they cross that person off the migration list. But we still need to go out to work and earn money in order to feed and clothe our children," says Aminat, a 37-year-old refugee in Grozny’s Oktyabrsky district.
"Two years ago when we were returning from Ingushetia we were promised as a first priority that we would be paid compensation for our destroyed accommodation and property, but so far no money has been paid. My home is in ruins, but I have no chance of restoring it on my own. If they close the TAC tomorrow, then I’ll simply be out on the street with my children," she says.
According to some reports there are more than 30 TACs and 14 "compact accommodation points" on the territory of the Chechen republic, housing a total of more than 60,000 IDPs. In addition, the "compact accommodation points" on the territory of Ingushetia house some 10,000 more internally displaced persons from Chechnya, whom the republic’s government plans to return to their homeland this summer. Where these people will be accommodated, and to what extent their legal interests and rights will be taken into consideration, is so far unknown.
On this the Migration Office of the Chechen Republic declines to comment.