The number of Chechen refugees returning to their homeland from Ingushetia has grown since the March referendum, though not dramatically, the Polit.ru website reported on April 22. The authorities have now changed tactics, and are compelling refugees to return by withholding food and other humanitarian aid. They simply “remove the names of displaced persons from the data banks in the Migration Service’s computer.”
The website referred to a case of about 200 recent returnees from the “Bela” refugee camp, who are now housed in what used to be a dormitory for university students. A government spokesman said that the tents where they had lived in Ingushetia have already been dismantled.
Human rights activist Ruslan Badalov, however, told the website that such people are returning not because they believe claims that the situation in Chechnya has improved since the referendum, but because of rumors that the refugee camps in Ingushetia are being eliminated. They fear that they will be forced to return in any case by the end of May, he said.