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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Town Fears 'Interaction' With Refugees

ISTRA, Russia - More than 150 African and Middle Eastern asylum-seekers were barred Thursday from entering a refugee camp amid charges by aid workers that local officials want to keep the would-be-refugees out of the town of Istra.


Nina Kraskova, inspector of the Interior Ministry's department for visas and registration in the town said the refugees did not have proper documentation but she acknowledged fear of future "conflict" with locals.


"There will be no conflict with the children", Kraskova said. "They speak Russian. But the adults don't. Maybe there will be interaction with our young girls. Then there will be conflict".


Magamaad Musavich, deputy director of the refugee camp, also blamed the local government for mounting a campaign to keep the refugees out of Istra, a small town about 75 kilometers northwest of Moscow.


"The local administration doesn't want problems", Musavich said. "The refugees will cause more work for the police. and people are worried that the girls will mix with the refugees and get pregnant".


On Monday, the refugees had also been barred from the camp, a former resort for vacationing Muscovites that has since agreed to accept refugees for much needed hard currency.


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Moscow paid the Chekhov refugee camp directors $23, 000 in cash, according to Charlotte Adrian, head of EquiLibre, a French humanitarian group working with the UNHCR.


The asylum-seekers include people from Somalia, Zaire, Angola, Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Adrian, the would-be-refugees have UNHCR doumentation, which she claims should be sufficient.


Since Monday, most of the asylum-seekers have been living in various Moscow train stations.


While aid workers said they believed that the town will eventually accept the asylum-seekers, they feared that the refugees troubles may not be over. In particular, they are worried that the refugees may ignite anti-foreigner violence.


"Nobody has really been hurt yet", Adrian said, "but the situation could change if groups like Pamyat learn of the camp's addresses. This could become the new Germany".


Abdi Keley Apailey, 41, a former electrical engineer from Somalia, said the asylum-seekers are often in danger. At least 12 have been murdered in the past year and many are often harassed by Russians who ask for money and racially taunt them, he said.


"I've traveled through 23 countries because of my civil war and this is the worst place I've seen", Apailey said.


Last fall, the Russian government signed an agreement obliging it to accept UNHCR asylum-seekers, but the document does not come into force in Russia until May.


On Thursday a spokesman at the Russian Federal Immigration Service said the service is instructing Istra officials to allow the asylum-seekers in.


EquiLibre, the agency helping the asylum-seekers, now houses 1, 300 people in refugee camps.


Adrian said the agency could house 1, 000 more, but complained that the government doesn't help them find camps, and in some cases even obstructs them.


Adrian said that even after aid workers find camps on their own, camp directors often receive threatening letters from Interior Ministry officials warning directors that they can be arrested for accepting any of the "illegal aliens".