UN ready to step up work in Chechnya senior humanitarian envoy says

Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland described the humanitarian situation in Chechnya as precarious, marked by poor security and a serious lack of housing.”This is a decisive hour for humanitarian work and the future of internally displaced persons in [the neighbouring Russian republic of] Ingushetia,” he said.Many Chechen refugees have been returning home from tent camps in Ingushetia. But Mr. Egeland said he was disturbed by reports that some felt pressured to go back. Last week, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Ruud Lubbers, also voiced concern about the possible closure of the camps in Ingushetia.After holding talks in Nazran, Ingushetia, with its President Murat Vyazikov, Mr. Egeland said he had been assured there would be no compulsory returns and no camps would be forcibly closed. The envoy also personally visited three tent camps.Mr. Egeland travelled to Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, where he met government officials and visited a temporary accommodation centre for returning refugees, a centre for disabled children and mine victims, and a maternity hospital.Yesterday Mr. Egeland was in Moscow, conducting talks with Russian Federation ministers. He returned to the city today to begin the second leg of his mission, which will take him to Ukraine and Belarus to focus on the effects of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear reactor explosion. read more