Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 32

Concerns are mounting over the humanitarian crisis in Ingushetia, triggered by continuing reports that the Russian and Ingush authorities are forcing refugees to return to Chechnya against their will. A newer but no less alarming development is that state-sanctioned kidnappings of civilians, long familiar in Chechnya, are now becoming a regular practice in Ingushetia as well.

Amnesty International released a statement on August 22 urging that “local and federal authorities in Ingushetia must immediately cease any attempts to coerce these internally displaced people into returning to what continues to be an unsafe environment.” The human rights group also expressed concern about raids by federal forces on refugee camps and other civilian settlements.

At the end of August a voice from an unexpected source joined that of Amnesty International: The actress Angelina Jolie, who plays Lara Croft in the “Tomb Raider” film thrillers, visited refugee camps in Ingushetia and North Ossetia as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees. She told a press conference that “if Bella camp [in Ingushetia] is closed and people are not given an option of housing, then I would consider it forced. That is not voluntary repatriation….Those families that want to return are supported by the UN, but we have concerns for people who don’t….I do believe that it is a very dangerous place still in Chechnya. They should be given a choice where to be housed.”