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Chechen Refugees Residing in Pankisi Gorge Demand Resettlement to a Third Country

August 3, 2007


“We have got used to all kind living conditions, so it will not be difficult to stay in the street either. We will not return to Pankisi. There we are unprotected. Our lives are in danger there,” said a Chechen refugee Mahamed Khasaev in his conversation with the Human Rights Center (HRIDC). He appeared in front of the building of UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Kazbegi Street #2 together with other five Chechen refugees. They demanded the UNHCR to resettle them to a third country.

“Initially we arrived in Tbilisi from Pankisi in the middle of May; we were thirty people from seven families. Our principal demand was resettlement to a third country. Later most refugees returned to Pankisi. But we stayed in Samgori District in Tbilisi. A local resident offered us his empty flat; he was sorry for our children and lodged us in. Now they are going to sell the flat and we had to leave the place. We arrived here because we have nowhere to go. We are going to stay here until our problems are resolved. Our principal demand is resettlement to a third country again. In European countries our children will have chance to live properly and get proper education,” said Mahamed Khasaev.
While working on the article Chechen refugees from Pankisi returned to the flat in Samgori District. “The owners of the flat got in touch with us and offered to stay at his place until we resolve our problem. Our demand is the same-resettlement to a third country,” said Khasaev.
In the middle of May Chechen refugees from Pankisi left the place in front of the UNHCR after they reached some agreement with law enforcers. One of Chechen refugees said that they reached verbal agreement with policemen. In addition to that they received an official notification from the UNHCR which stated the within a week refugees will receive an official answer regarding the resettlement to a third country. After that Chechen refugees left the place.
Nevertheless, information spread by media sources and Deputy Public Defender, Giga Giorgadze stated that law enforcers tried to disperse Chechen refugees. As soon as representatives of the Public Defender arrived at the place, policemen gave up harassment. UNHCR denied the information and a Chechen refugee also confirmed the fact and said “there were no facts of harassment against us. We left the area ourselves.”
Edina Slipichevich-Dziho, Associate Protection Officer for the UNHCR stated that they offered the Chechen refugees camped in front of their office recently to return to Pankisi and offered them to provide with correspondent assistance. In addition to that the UNHCR promised the refugees to pay traveling fees to Pankisi. However, Chechens turned down their offer.  
As for resettlement countries, the Associate Protection Officer said that UNHCR is submitting complete information and documentations to those countries. However, in most cases resettlement countries refuse to accept Chechen refugees. “If we look into the statistics, the number of resettled refugees is reducing year-by-year.”
During recent years, most Chechen refugees were accepted by the USA, Canada and Australia.
Edina Slipichevich-Dziho said that Chechen refugees did not spend previous night in front of their office. “At the moment we do not know what kind of decision they have made. They are supposed to apply to us again,” said the Associate Protection Officer.
Finding permanent solutions to resolve problems faced by refugees is a core element of UNHCR’s mandate. This includes voluntary repatriation to the country of origin, local integration in the country of asylum, and resettlement to a third country. Resettlement as a durable solution is a limited option available only to refugees who meet criteria of individual Refugee Status Determination (RSD) and criteria specified by potential countries of resettlement. Although asylum is an international right, refugees do not have a right to resettlement. Resettlement places are limited, and the number of refugees to be resettled in a given year is determined by resettlement countries themselves and not UNHCR. Resettlement to a third country solely depends on the willingness of the third country to accept a person for legal stay in its territory. UNHCR has no decision-making authority on resettlement cases. The resettlement countries’ officials make these decisions. Resettlement of Chechen refugees from Georgia is decided on a case-by-case basis, without the possibility of group resettlement.
Based on the information provided by Chechen refugees, UNHCR calls individual refugees and their family members for resettlement interviews. After the interview, only if the individual case appears to meet both the Refugee Status Determination and the precise criteria set by the resettlement countries, a case is submitted by UNHCR to a resettlement country for its consideration. Based on the different countries’ quota level for resettlement, various admission criteria and the refugee’s personal and professional background, UNHCR determines as to which country the refugees’ application should be submitted for resettlement. Submission to a particular country does not mean that a refugee will be automatically resettled in that country. Decisions can take up to several months, due to the processing procedures of resettlement countries. If a refugee is accepted for resettlement, it can still take up to several years before the actual departure. Often, medical examinations, further documentation, and security interviews are required.
Between January 2002 and December 2006, a total of 305 persons, Chechen refugees were resettled from Georgia with UNHCR’s facilitation, mainly to Sweden and Canada. In the same period over 500 persons have been interviewed by UNHCR but did not meet criteria and have not been submitted for resettlement.

Nino Tarkhnishvili