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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Room for Refugees Is Running Out




Refugees from Chechnya are living in crowded tents and railway cars in Ingushetia with too little food and no way to bathe, and soon there will be no space at all for newcomers, human rights activists said Tuesday.


"The Ingush Emergency Situations Ministry has space left for 8,000 people. With 1,500 refugees crossing the border daily, in a few days there will a catastrophe," Oleg Orlov of the Memorial human rights group told journalists.


The number of civilians who have fled the Russian military campaign in Chechnya has surpassed 200,000, and the bulk of the refugees are in Ingushetia. Many have been taken in by relatives, friends - even strangers - but thousands are staying in makeshift camps.


Members of Memorial and Amnesty International just returned from a trip to the camps in Ingushetia and held a news conference to call attention to the refugees' plight.


"Federal authorities are trying to keep the conflict in Chechnya out of the jurisdiction of humanitarian law, and thus away from any international control," Orlov said.


He said many refugees told of heavy casualties in Russia's so-called pinpoint airstrikes on Chechen villages and towns.


"For example, when on Oct. 27 the Russian military command announced that they had destroyed the house of Chechen guerrilla leader Shamil Basayev, the nearby blocks were also destroyed," Orlov said.


At least five two-story buildings with 12 apartments each were leveled together with a larger five-story apartment block, he said.


The Chechens who make it to Ingushetia are not out of danger.


"We have seen tents where there were 30 residents instead of the expected 10," Orlov said.


"In railway cars where refugees also live, we have seen up to 16 people living in compartments built to sleep six."


Many tents and cars are not heated. Food is distributed according to the number of supposed spaces, meaning that if a railway car has 57 spaces, 57 daily rations are distributed, even if a hundred people are living there, Orlov said.


With no shower facilities, refugees are often lice-ridden, and dysentery cases are on the rise, a Memorial report said.


In a troubling development, Orlov said refugees and Ingush police told Memorial activists of a filtration camp in Mozdok, a town in North Ossetia where federal troops are based.


Filtration camps existed during the 1994-96 war in Chechnya. Set up to check those suspected of collaboration with Chechen rebels, the filtration camps became secret detention centers run by the Federal Security Service and Interior Ministry forces.


According to Orlov, at least 300 Chechens are still missing from the last war after being put in filtration camps.


"We were told that some people were taken to the new camp in Mozdok. There is no information on what has happened to them, but we know that at least one of the detained was a pregnant woman," Orlov said.