"I want to go back to Chechnya due to the terrible living conditions, but I am worried about security. Still, I think I may go back"
"I am afraid of the cleaning operations . I don't even want to think about the closure of the camps. I hope humanitarian organisations will help us"
"I am afraid for my family in Chechnya. Our house was destroyed. I don't know what to do if the camps are closed. I will do the same as everyone else. I am afraid of the camp closure".
The MSF survey shows that 98% of the Chechen population living in tents in Ingushetia, do not want to return to Chechnya, mainly because they fear for their life.
Today, the situation in Chechnya continues to be insecure for civilians. 93% of families who were not planning on returning to Chechnya in the near future, give insecurity as a reason. The high levels of violence and insecurity in Chechnya are well documented elsewhere: Zatchiskas, disappearances, murders, torture, bombings, checkpoints are constantly threatening civilians' lives. Official sources from the Chechen administration have told MSF that since the beginning of 2003, 217 people have disappeared, of which 99 people were taken away by Armoured Personnel Carriers, meaning by the federal army. Bombs and explosions also continue to be part of reality in Chechnya. The largest of these was the destruction of the Chechen administration government building in Grozny in December 2002. Since then war related incidents continue on a weekly basis.
Chechen families refuse to go back to Chechnya even though their living conditions in the tent camps continue to be totally unacceptable with more than half of the families interviewed living in tents that either leak, and/or do not have adequate insulation against the cold, and /or do not have floor (either wooden or concrete). Most importantly, they have no alternative place to stay in Ingushetia when the camps close.
The very poor quality of humanitarian aid in Ingushetia is not an incentive for people to stay. 88% of interviewed families did not mention aid as a reason for not wanting to go back to Chechnya. This is contradictory to statements made by Chechen, Ingush and Russian officials arguing that assistance to the Chechen refugees in Ingushetia is one of the main reasons which keeps people from going back to Chechnya. However, aid in Chechnya is also insufficient, notably because the insecurity threatening Chechen civilians is also threatening humanitarian workers.
In spite of people's choice to stay in Ingushetia and of official statements that no one will be forced back, the provision of alternative shelter by humanitarian organisations continues to be blocked . The families identified by the MSF survey are being offered no alternative. The results speak for themselves, showing the need for construction and provision of alternative shelters for at least 2,827 families (14,443 people) in all tent camps , with those in the official camps probably being in more urgent need. A key point in the provision of options to people, is informing them that alternative shelter in Ingushetia is a possibility.
For a year now Chechen refugees living in the tented camps in Ingushetia are subject to forced return in a subtle yet extremely efficient way. As more families leave, pressure grows on the ones who have decided to stay, as they feel the process is ineluctable. Families are not presented with the option to stay in Ingushetia.
Today, the situation in Chechnya continues to be insecure for civilians. 93% of families who were not planning on returning to Chechnya in the near future, give insecurity as a reason.