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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.
The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) reports that hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes in Chechnya since 1990. 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. Estimated 325,000 was the total number of people that have entered Ingushetia as refugees in the first year of the Second Chechen War. Some 185,000 were in the republic already by November 1999 and 215,000 lived in Ingushetia by June 2000. 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, 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. About 180,000 Chechens remained in Ingushetia by February 2002 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. 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.
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. According to another estimate from March 2009, there were some 130,000 Chechen refugees in Europe, including former fighters. 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.
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. 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. As of 2012, there are some 42,000 Chechens residing in Austria.
As of 2009, Denmark is one of the six countries in Europe with the biggest Chechen disasporas.
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), 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.
As of early 2008, approximately 10,000 Chechens live in Germany.
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. As of 2008, the Chechens are the greatest group (90% in 2007) of refugees arriving in Poland, on the eastern border of the EU.
Spain has granted hundreds of Chechen families asylum since 1999.
In the United Kingdom there is a large number of Chechen refugees. Some of them are 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, such as Akhmed Zakayev relocated to the UK.
Thousands of others settled in the other EU countries, such as Sweden or Finland.
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. 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.
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. Since Yakunovich was elected he has begun harassing the Chechen refugee settlements through police raids and sudden deportations, sometimes even separating families.
Both Azerbaijan and Georgia have extradited some Chechen refugees to Russia in violation of their obligations under international law. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Georgia violated their rights.
Chechen refugees and exiles
- Ilyas Akhmadov
- Khassan Baiev
- Murat Gasayev
- Umar Israilov
- Mamed Khalidov
- Timur Mucuraev
- Milana Terloeva
- Sulim Yamadayev
- Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev
- Akhmed Zakayev
- Chechen diaspora
- Muhajir (Caucasus), the emigration of Muslim indigenous peoples from the Caucasus into the Ottoman Empire and Persia following the Russian conquest during the 19th century.
- Government efforts help only some IDPs rebuild their lives, Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, 13 August 2007
- Tuberculosis sweeps Ingushetia with influx of Chechen refugees, AFP/ReliefWeb, 09 May 2001
- Information on the Chechen refugee situation in Ingushetia in the late 2000, University of California, September 10, 2000
- World: Europe UN envoy meets Chechen refugees, BBC News, November 18, 1999
- Chechen Refugees in Ingushetia Pressured to Return, Human Rights Watch, 12/17/99
- Russia: Chechen Refugees Face Ejection From Camps In Ingushetia, Radio Free Europe, January 14, 2004
- Russia says 'return,' but Chechen refugees stay put, The Christian Science Monitor, February 05, 2002
- Chechens wary of homecoming The Christian Science Monitor, June 12, 2002
- Chechnya's Exodus to Europe, North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 9 Issue: 3, The Jamestown Foundation, January 24, 2008
- As Hit Men Strike, Concern Grows Among Chechen Exiles, RFE/RL, March 12, 2009
- Chechnya Wins Right to Open Offices in Europe, The Moscow Times, 14 September 2009
- Chechens deported from Carinthia, Ö1, 12.01.2008
- "Tschetschenen-FlĂźchtlinge fahren auf Heimaturlaub" (in German). Unzensuriert.at. Retrieved 2013-10-14.
- Belgium "to grant Chechen refugees political asylum", Deutsche Presse Agentur, 25 Jun 2003
- Czech camps overwhelmed by Chechen Refugees, Refugees International, 30-12-2003
- CHECHEN AND AFRICAN IMMIGRANTS BATTLE IN NICE, FRANCE, The Jamestown Foundation, November 09, 2006
- Chechen refugees chase 'French dream' following Schengen expansion, AFP, 25 January 2008
- Polish border guards find 3 dead Chechen girls near Ukrainian border, IHT, September 14, 2007
- (Polish) O azyl prosi coraz więcej Czeczenów, Wprost, 2008-03-10 07:13
- Chechen Woman Sets Herself On Fire In Spain, Radio Free Europe, May 29, 2009
- Chechen refugees in Azerbaijan, Prague Watchdog, March 4, 2003
- Chechen refugees living in Azerbaijan demand granting citizenship to an estimated 2000 of them, APA, 03 Oct 2007
- Chechen refugees want out of Georgia, Institute for War and Peace Reporting, 27-May-04
- Ethnic Chechens Caught Up in Iraq Violence, NPR, September 30, 2007
- THE CHECHEN DIASPORA IN TURKEY, The Jamestown Foundation, February 16, 2005
- "Chechen refugees' dilemma in Turkey - Europe". Al Jazeera English. Retrieved 2013-10-14.
- "Under pro-Russian President Ukrainian Authorities Kidnap Chechen Refugees and Extradite to Death to Russia". Waynakh Online. May 18, 2010. Original story: Обращение
- For Refugees, Georgia Conflict Stirs Up Old Fears, The Washington Post, September 28, 2008
- Georgia's Chechens relive own Russian war, The Christian Science Monitor, October 7, 2008
- Chechen refugees in Pankisi Gorge resume normal life after Georgia scare, UNHCR, 1 October 2008
- Guidelines on the Treatment of Chechen IDPs, Asylum Seekers& Refugees in Europe, European Council on Refugees and Exiles
- Georgia: UNHCR closely monitoring Chechen refugees' situation, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
- Blasts in Chechen Capital Unleash New Wave of Refugees, The New York Times, October 23, 1999
- Chechen Refugees Fast to Decry War, The Associated Press, June 22, 2001
- The Plight of Chechen Refugees in Georgia, Islamic Human Rights Commission, 17 June 2003
- The right not to return: the situation of displaced Chechens dispersed in the Russian Federation, Chechnya Advocacy Network, August 2003
- The Plight of Chechen Refugees revisited, Islamic Human Rights Commission, 21 March 2005
- Poland: Chechen Refugees Grateful for Protection but Need Integration Support, Refugees International, 12/06/2005
- Refugees and Diaspora, Chechnya Advocacy Network, 2007
- The burden of "Euro-tourism", Prague Watchdog, September 14, 2009 (discussing the consequences of the Dublin Regulation for the refugees)
- "Brothers, Bread and the Bosphorus", Al-Jazeera, May 13, 2010 (discussing the status of Chechens in Turkey's Bosphorus region)
- Chechnya Day, website run by Chechen diaspora as well as others aimed at raising awareness to the 'tragic and genocidal events' beginning on February 23, 1944, Aardakh.