Nazran/Moscow/Paris - Ingushetia's Bela Camp, which housed up to 3,500 displaced Chechens, was closed by Ingush authorities Wednesday, October 1, according to the international humanitarian medical organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). This latest move affirms the authorities' consistent strategy of closing tent camps. Most of the final 168 families living in Bela camp were relocated over the past week to tents provided by the United
Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Satsita Camp.The displaced families are able to stay in Ingushetia and not return to Chechnya, where a climate of extreme violence, abductions, assassination, torture, and "cleansing" operations persists.
Unfortunately, no one knows where the families who had to leave the camp before September have taken refuge. These families were presented with no alternative than to return to Chechnya.
The night before Bela Camp was closed, families squatting in Kompakniki, Logovaz and Oushkoz were threatened with expulsion. That same day, the military conducted a new cleansing operation in the MTF-Karabulak camp on the outskirts of Nazran, Ingushetia's capital. One hundred soldiers surrounded the camp.
Two men were arrested and detained until that night. The following morning, nearly thirty masked men returned to the camp and arrested another resident. During the same period, access to the camps for humanitarian aid workers has been severely limited. Entry is prohibited without special authorization, and officials cite insecurity and warnings of kidnapping for the restrictions.
The relocation of some of the refugees in Bela camp should not be an exception but a precedent. Such a move shows that it is possible to rapidly provide alternative housing to people who choose not to return to Chechnya out of fears for their safety.
Each expelled family should receive concrete offers of housing in Ingushetia. MSF is ready to resume construction of temporary shelters as soon as promised authorizations are given.