Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 18

A key official of the Kadyrov administration confirmed this week, at least in part, what international humanitarian groups and human-rights advocates have been saying for many months: Most refugees in Ingushetia would prefer not to return to Chechnya at this point. Ruslan Tsugaev, who heads the Moscow-appointed Chechen administration’s task force for displaced persons, told correspondent Timur Aliev of Prague Watchdog that “as of now, about 2,000 people stated their desire to return, but the actual number of returnees is considerably lower.” Even the figure of 2,000 would represent only a very small fraction of all the refugees in Ingushetia, estimated by some groups to exceed 100,000.

However, Tsugaev apparently did not address sensitive issues such as forced repatriation or the refugees’ well-grounded fears of violence and persecution. He said that the reason for the refugees’ continuing reluctance to go home is that housing for them is just not ready yet in Chechnya.

Further confirmation came from George Gyorke of the staff of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who said on May 19 that the Commission estimates some 90,000 Chechen refugees to be living now in Ingushetia. That is some 30,000 more than Moscow’s official figure. Gyorke said that the great majority of these would rather remain in Ingushetia as long as they continue to see Chechnya as physically dangerous.