The head of the International Committee on Problems of the North Caucasus, Ruslan Kutaev, said late last month that a large number of Chechens are fleeing the republic for Europe. The Turkish website Ajans Kafkas on December 27 quoted Kutaev as saying that “Chechens are constantly seeking ways to be in Europe at all costs” and that 15,000 Chechens had left the republic over the previous six months, with 5,000 fleeing over the previous month alone.
The website quoted Kutaev as saying that Chechens were leaving because there is no future for them in their homeland. “Most of the Chechens who left are young people who see no good prospects of … having a nice future under the occupying administration of dictator Ramzan Kaydrov,” he said. According to Ajans Kafkas, Kutaev declined to comment on how the figures were collected.
Whether or not Kutaev’s figures are accurate, some European observers have confirmed that large numbers of Chechen refugees have been entering their countries. The website of Germany’s Deutsche Welle, Dw-world.de, reported on January 4 that while German police say crime has not increased since Europe’s visa-free area was expanded on December 21, illegal immigration has “peaked” and many of those caught heading for Germany are Chechens with asylum status in Poland. According to the German international broadcaster, a “disproportionate” number of those caught attempting to enter Germany illegally “come from the war-torn Russian province of Chechnya and hold asylum papers that are valid in Poland but not in the rest of the Schengen area.” Deutsche Welle reported that on December 25, police stopped 18 Chechens traveling in Polish taxis on the motorway connecting Berlin with Stettin in Poland. They were deported to Poland, where they had legal residency, and another 10 would-be immigrants from Chechnya were apprehended on the same highway later in the week. According to Germany’s DPA news agency, more than 7,000 Chechens currently have permission to remain in Poland and 1,782 received legal asylum status in 2007.
The Czech News Agency (ČTK) reported on January 5 that Czech police have tightened checkpoints fearing that mainly Chechens who are trying to get from Poland to the south of Europe will take advantage of last December’s extension of the Schengen area. “Special attention is [being] paid to persons of Chechen nationality … in reaction to information that the Chechens who have applied for asylum in Poland could be moving across our territory to the south of Europe,” Czech police spokeswoman Barbora Kudlackova told ČTK. The news agency quoted Public Czech Television as saying that Polish police had detained large groups of Chechen refugees still on Polish soil.
Meanwhile, Ingushetiya.ru reported on December 28 that a growing number of people are also leaving Ingushetia for Europe and that the number of migrants had increased significantly in the last five years. The independent website said that according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 3,555 residents of Chechnya and Ingushetia asked for asylum in Poland since November 2007, which represents a 70 percent increase in the number of Russian citizens seeking asylum in Poland. Ingushetiya.ru quoted Musa Kaimov, a columnist with the Chechen newspaper Groznensky Rabochy, as writing in the newspaper last September 20: “In Moscow, in Ukraine, in Belorussia, hundreds of Chechens are searching for channel through which to go abroad. They are cheated by guides, arrested at the border, yet the flow of refugees is not abating. If this tendency continues, Chechens may turn into a people without a homeland.”