Chechen refugees

Chechen refugees

During the inter-ethnic strife in Chechnya and the two separatist First and Second Chechen Wars, hundreds of thousands of Chechen refugees have left their homes and left the republic for elsewhere in Russia and abroad.


In Russia

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) reports that hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes in Chechnya since 1990.[1] This included majority of Chechnya non-Chechen population of 300,000 (mostly Russians, but also Armenians, Ingush, Georgians, Ukrainians and many more) who had left the republic in the early 1990s and as of 2008 never returned.

Many ethnic Chechens have also moved to Moscow and other Russian cities. According to the 2008 study by the Norwegian Refugee Council, some 139,000 Chechens remained displaced in the Russian Federation.


In the nearby republic of Ingushetia, at the peak of the refugee crisis after the start of the Second Chechen War in 2000, estimated 240,000 refugees almost doubled the Ingushetia's pre-war population of 300,000 (350,000 including the refugees from the Ingush-Ossetian conflict) and resulting in an epidemy of tuberculosis.[2] Estimated 325,000 was the total number of people that have entered Ingushetia as refugees in the first year of the Second Chechen War.[3] Some 185,000 were in the republic already by November 1999[4] and 215,000 lived in Ingushetia by June 2000.[3] In October 1999 the border with Ingushetia was closed down by the Russian military and a refugee convoy bombed after being turned away.

Thousands of them were pressured to return by the Russian military already in December 1999,[5] and the refugee camps were forcibly closed after 2001 by the new Chechen government of President Akhmad Kadyrov and the new Ingush government of President Murat Zyazikov.[6] About 180,000 Chechens remained in Ingushetia by February 2002[7] and 150,000 by June 2002, most of them housed in a "tent city" camps, abandoned farms and factories and disused trains, or living with sympathetic families.[8] As of early 2007, less than 20,000 Chechens remained in Ingushetia and many of them were expected to integrate locally rather than return to Chechnya.


As of 2006, more than 100,000 people remain internally displaced persons (IDP) within Chechnya, most of whom live in substandard housing and poverty. All official IDP centers in the republic were closed down and the foreign NGO aid severely limited by the government (including the ban of the Danish Refugee Council).


Since 2003 there is a sharp surge of Chechen asylum-seekers arriving abroad, at a time when major combat operations had largely ceased. One explanation is the process of "Chechenization", which empowered former separatists Ahmed Kadyrov and his son Ramzan Kadyrov as the leaders of Chechnya (indeed, Chechen refugees indicated that they feared Chechen security forces more than Russian troops). Another explanation is that after a decade of war and lawlessness, many Chechens have given up hope of ever rebuilding a normal life at home and instead try to start a new life in exile.

European Union

In 2003, some 33,000 Russian citizens (over 90% of them presumed to be Chechens) applied for asylum in the European Union (EU), according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, making them the largest group of new refugees arriving in developed nations. According to unofficial reports from January 2008, the number of Chechens in Europe may reach 70,000.[9] According to another estimate from March 2009, there were some 130,000 Chechen refugees in Europe, including former fighters.[10] In September 2009 Kadyrov said that Chechnya would open representative offices in Europe in an attempt to convince the Chechen migrant communities living there to return to their homeland.[11]

Austria Austria granted asylum rights to more than 2,000 Chechen refugees in 2007, bringing the total number to 17,000 in January 2008, the largest diaspora in Europe.[9] In January, 2008, Jörg Haider, a far right governor of Carinthia, called for a moratorium on giving them asylum blaming some already there for violence and sex crimes.[12]

Belgium As of early 2008, some 7,000-10,000 Chechens live in Belgium,[9] many of them in Aarschot. At least 2,000 of them were granted political asylum in 2003.[13]

Czech Republic In 2003, refugee camps in the Czech Republic were said to be "overhelmed" due to an overwhelming number of Chechen refugees.[14]

Denmark As of 2009, Denmark is one of the six countries in Europe with the biggest Chechen disasporas.[11]

France As of early 2008, about 10,000 Chechens live in France. The largest Chechen communities in France exist in Nice (where there were reports of sharp conflict with the immigrants from North Africa[15]), Strasbourg and Paris (the home of the Chechen-French Center). Chechens also live in Orléans, Le Mans, Besançon, Montpelier, Toulouse and Tours. As of 2008, thousands more are trying to get to France from Poland.[16]

Germany As of early 2008, approximately 10,000 Chechens live in Germany.[9]

Poland In Poland, almost 3,600 Chechens have applied for refugee status in the first eight months of 2007 alone and over 6,000 in the next four months.[17][18] As of 2008, the Chechens are the greatest group (90% in 2007[18]) of refugees arriving in Poland, on the eastern border of the EU.

Spain Spain has granted hundreds of Chechen families asylum since 1999.[19]

United Kingdom In the United Kingdom there is a large number of Chechen refugees. Some of them wanted by Russia but the UK government refuses to extradite them on grounds of concern for human rights. Some of the original Chechen separatist government figures relocated to the UK.

Thousands of others settled in the other EU countries, such as Sweden or Finland.

Other countries

Chechen children in Georgia

Azerbaijan Of 12,000 Chechen refugees who arrived in Azerbaijan, most moved on to Europe later (leaving some 5,000 in 2003[20] and 2,000 in 2007[21]).[22]

Canada As of early 2008, several hundred people live in the Canadian community.[9]

Georgia (country) Of some 4,000 Chechens who have sought safety in neighbouring Georgia, the majority have settled in Pankisi Gorge and over 1,1000 registered refugees remain there as of 2008.

Iran Due to a historical bond with Persia, an unknown but substantial number of Chechens live in Iran, often in communities by the former USSR-Iran border and along the Caspian Sea.

 Iraq has a long history of Chechen settlement, currently threatened under the instability of Iraq after the U.S. invasion.[23]

Turkey Some 3,000 to 4,000 Chechens arrived in Turkey, of which most also moved on further, but as of 2005 some 1,500 stayed.[24] Many of the Chechen refugees in Turkey are yet to be given official refugee status by the Turkish government, without this status they will be unable to legally attend school or have jobs.[25]

 Ukraine is the main transit country for Chechen refugees traveling to Europe (some others travel through Belarus). There is also a small number of Chechens settled in Crimea. The election of Yakunovich has been very bad for Chechens- since he was elected he has begun harassing the Chechen refugee settlements through police raids and sudden deportations, sometimes even separating families.[26]

United Arab Emirates As of early 2008, some 2,000-3,000 refugees live in the United Arab Emirates.[9]

United States A small, but growing Chechen community exists in the United States, in particular in Los Angeles and throughout California.

Both Azerbaijan and Georgia have extradited some Chechen refugees to Russia in violation of their obligations under international law.[citation needed] The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Georgia violated their rights.

During the 2008 South Ossetia war, many of more than 1,000 Chechen refugees in Pankisi Gorge fled towards Turkey along with their Georgian neighbours.[27][28][29]

Chechen refugees and exiles

See also


  1. ^ Government efforts help only some IDPs rebuild their lives, Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, 13 August 2007
  2. ^ Tuberculosis sweeps Ingushetia with influx of Chechen refugees, AFP/ReliefWeb, 09 May 2001
  3. ^ a b Information on the Chechen refugee situation in Ingushetia in the late 2000, University of California, September 10, 2000
  4. ^ World: Europe UN envoy meets Chechen refugees, BBC News, November 18, 1999
  5. ^ Chechen Refugees in Ingushetia Pressured to Return, Human Rights Watch, 12/17/99
  6. ^ Russia: Chechen Refugees Face Ejection From Camps In Ingushetia, Radio Free Europe, January 14, 2004
  7. ^ Russia says 'return,' but Chechen refugees stay put, The Christian Science Monitor, February 05, 2002
  8. ^ Chechens wary of homecoming The Christian Science Monitor, June 12, 2002
  9. ^ a b c d e f Chechnya's Exodus to Europe, North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 9 Issue: 3, The Jamestown Foundation, January 24, 2008
  10. ^ As Hit Men Strike, Concern Grows Among Chechen Exiles, RFE/RL, March 12, 2009
  11. ^ a b Chechnya Wins Right to Open Offices in Europe, The Moscow Times, 14 September 2009
  12. ^ Chechens deported from Carinthia, Ö1, 12.01.2008
  13. ^ Belgium "to grant Chechen refugees political asylum", Deutsche Presse Agentur, 25 Jun 2003
  14. ^ Czech camps overwhelmed by Chechen Refugees, Refugees International, 30-12-2003
  15. ^ CHECHEN AND AFRICAN IMMIGRANTS BATTLE IN NICE, FRANCE, The Jamestown Foundation, November 09, 2006
  16. ^ Chechen refugees chase 'French dream' following Schengen expansion, AFP, 25 January 2008
  17. ^ Polish border guards find 3 dead Chechen girls near Ukrainian border, IHT, September 14, 2007
  18. ^ a b (Polish) O azyl prosi coraz więcej Czeczenów, Wprost, 2008-03-10 07:13
  19. ^ Chechen Woman Sets Herself On Fire In Spain, Radio Free Europe, May 29, 2009
  20. ^ Chechen refugees in Azerbaijan, Prague Watchdog, March 4, 2003
  21. ^ Chechen refugees living in Azerbaijan demand granting citizenship to an estimated 2000 of them, APA, 03 Oct 2007
  22. ^ Chechen refugees want out of Georgia, Institute for War and Peace Reporting, 27-May-04
  23. ^ Ethnic Chechens Caught Up in Iraq Violence, NPR, September 30, 2007
  24. ^ THE CHECHEN DIASPORA IN TURKEY, The Jamestown Foundation, February 16, 2005
  25. ^ [1]
  26. ^ "Under pro-Russian President Ukrainian Authorities Kidnap Chechen Refugees and Extradite to Death to Russia". Waynakh Online. May 18, 2010. Original story: Обращение
  27. ^ For Refugees, Georgia Conflict Stirs Up Old Fears, The Washington Post, September 28, 2008
  28. ^ Georgia's Chechens relive own Russian war, The Christian Science Monitor, October 7, 2008
  29. ^ Chechen refugees in Pankisi Gorge resume normal life after Georgia scare, UNHCR, 1 October 2008

External links

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