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UNHCR and IOM seek funds for CIS programmes

Press Releases, 5 July 1996

UNHCR and IOM launched a $7.6 million joint appeal Friday for a pilot programme linked to the massive involuntary migratory movements taking place in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The programme includes a series of projects designed to plug some of the yawning gaps in the management of displacement and migration in the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Belarus.

The projects are primarily aimed at helping local authorities and non-governmental agencies (NGOs) integrate vulnerable and often destitute refugees, internally displaced, formerly deported peoples and people forced to return to their ancestral homelands by conflicts in other CIS countries. At present, many of these people are living extremely precariously in a social and legal vacuum with nowhere to go and no one to turn to.

Since the late 1980s, at least 9 million people have moved to, within or between CIS countries as a result of conflicts, environmental disasters or a range of fears and complications arising from the sudden and unprecedented disintegration of a single state the former Soviet Union into 15 separate ones.

Many of the displaced and other types of migrant are struggling to carve out a new life in societies which are themselves struggling to cope with the social, economic and political upheaval that has followed the break-up of the Soviet Union.

The CIS countries lack the necessary systems, personnel and experience for coping with types of movement which did not exist a decade ago, and are overwhelmed by the staggering numbers involved.

The UNHCR/IOM projects are designed to strengthen the embryonic systems and structures which have already been set up, as well as to establish new ones. They include the remodelling, refurbishing and re-equipping of reception centres in the Russian Federation and Ukraine, as well as the establishment of a new reception centre in Belarus; the upgrading of medical facilities; establishment of reliable information systems, including equipment and training; on-the-job training for local NGOs implementing the projects, as well as for local government officials in charge of migration, and immigration officials at points of entry.

Legal assistance will be provided for some of the groups most in need, including some of the 260,000 Crimean Tatars who have so far returned to their ancestral homeland half a century after they were deported to Central Asia by Stalin. A recent assessment mission to Crimea has identified some 60,000 Crimean Tatars who are either stateless or in a nebulous position with regard to citizenship.

Wherever possible, support will be given to the emerging, but still fragile, under-equipped and under-funded local NGOs, since their strength and effectiveness will be a key factor in the future management of migration and displacement.

Friday's appeal, covering a six-month period up to the end of 1996, is a first step by the two agencies to follow up on the guiding principles and Programme of Action endorsed by a conference held in Geneva at the end of May.

The CIS Conference on Refugees and Migrants, organized by UNHCR, IOM and the human rights arm of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), stressed that the astonishing scale and complexity of the movements could be dangerously destabilizing. The 87 participating states endorsed an ambitious regional plan that provides a framework for dealing more effectively with existing problems as well as preventing or mitigating further uncontrolled and unnecessary mass movements.

A further joint appeal covering all the CIS countries will be launched later in the year. However, senior UNHCR and IOM officials stressed that the work needs to start straight away if the momentum created by the CIS Conference is to be maintained. In addition, experience gained through the implementation of the pilot projects will help guide future programmes throughout the region.

The two agencies also drew attention to a critical $29.2 million shortfall in funding for ongoing programmes which pre-dated the CIS Conference. Operations for refugees and displaced people in the Caucasus and Central Asia are seriously under-funded.

Since 1989, seven major conflicts have between them forced over 3.6 million people to leave their homes. In addition to those displaced by conflicts, the strains brought on by the sudden disintegration of the Soviet Union have triggered or encouraged other huge movements, some of them unique to the CIS countries. Some 3.3 million people, including 600,000 from conflict zones, have felt compelled to leave their homes and return to their country of ethnic origin. The CIS Conference process also identified return or emigration movements of 1.2 million people who had been deported en masse during the 1940s, as well as 700,000 people who have fled ecological disasters, 600,000 illegal migrants and 70,000 asylum-seekers.

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Displacement in Georgia

Tens of thousands of civilians are living in precarious conditions, having been driven from their homes by the crisis in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia.

On the morning of August 12, the first UNHCR-chartered plane carrying emergency aid arrived in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, the first UN assistance to arrive in the country since fighting broke out the previous week. The airlift brought in 34 tonnes of tents, jerry cans, blankets and kitchen sets from UNHCR's central emergency stockpile in Dubai. Items were then loaded onto trucks at the Tbilisi airport for transport and distribution.

A second UNHCR flight landed in Tbilisi on August 14, with a third one expected to arrive the following day. In addition, two UNHCR aid flights are scheduled to leave for Vladikavkaz in the Russian Federation the following week with mattresses, water tanks and other supplies for displaced South Ossetians.

Working with local partners, UNHCR is now providing assistance to the most vulnerable and needy. These include many young children and family members separated from one another. The situation is evolving rapidly and the refugee agency is monitoring the needs of the newly displaced population, which numbered some 115,000 on August 14.

Posted on 15 August 2008

Displacement in Georgia

Ukraine: Sorting through the Wreckage

Conflict has changed the city of Sloviansk in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine. "We used to have such a beautiful, calm, tidy city," says Angelina, a social worker. Today, it is full of destroyed homes and infrastructure, a casualty of the fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian forces. More than half of the inhabitants - some 70,000 people - fled the city during the combat earlier this year. In recent weeks, with the city back under government control, some 15,000 have returned. But they face many challenges. Maria, aged 80, returned to a damaged home and sleeps in the kitchen with her family. She worries about getting her pension. The UN refugee agency has transported several tons of hygiene items and kitchen equipment to the city for distribution to those who lost their homes. Photojournalist Iva Zimova recently accompanied UNHCR staff as they visited more than 100 families to give put aid.

Ukraine: Sorting through the Wreckage

Vincent Cochetel interviewPlay video

Vincent Cochetel interview

On the occasion of World Humanitarian Day 2010, a senior UNHCR staff member reflects on his experience being kidnapped near Chechnya in 1998.
UN High Commissioner Visits Georgia and RussiaPlay video

UN High Commissioner Visits Georgia and Russia

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres spent four days in Georgia and the Russian Federation to assess UNHCR's humanitarian operations and to speak with those affected by the recent fighting in the breakaway region of South Ossetia.