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Urgent Alert: Chechen Refugees on Hunger Strike in Poland

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IHRC is deeply concerned about the plight of Chechen refugees residing in Lublin, Poland who have just come off a three week hunger strike in protest at their ill-treatment by the Polish authorities.
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Islamic Human Rights Commission
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12 September 2005

Action Alert: Chechen Refugees on Hunger Strike in Poland

IHRC is deeply concerned about the plight of Chechen refugees residing in Lublin, Poland who have just come off a three week hunger strike in protest at their ill-treatment by the Polish authorities. The hunger strikers aimed to get an appointment with the Representative of the UN High Commission for Refugees in Poland, Dr. Jaime Ruiz de Santiago, on the question of their rights as refugees under international law, and on the adoption of an integration programme for refugees, or even integration into a third country. The strike was finally called off on 9 September after the management agreed to introduce improved systems for providing health care, for assigning clothes to those who most need them and providing more suitable food for small children.

IHRC is calling on all campaigners to request Mr Jaime Ruiz de Santiago to meet with the refugees' representative body, the Refugee Union for the Protection of Rights, to discuss these issues. IHRC also urges campaigners to contact the Polish embassy in their country to request that Poland honours the rights of refugees within their borders in accordance with international law, including the Geneva Refugee Convention of and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.


1. Background

[For full background briefing on the situation of Chechen refugees, please see the IHRC briefing, 'The Plight of Chechen Refugees Revisited', at http://www.ihrc.org.uk/show.php?id=1290 ]

Chechen refugee families languish in isolated Polish asylum camps under decrepit conditions, deliberately isolated from main Polish population centres. Three to four families are accommodated in one room. Often, there is one lavatory, one shower and one kitchen on each floor for all the families living on the same floor. In protest at their poor living conditions, 200 Chechen refugees at the Dembak asylum-centre reportedly held a hunger strike in December 2004. However, Chechen refugees report no change or improvement in their living conditions.

Health conditions amongst Chechen refugees in Polish camps are poor. Chechen refugees report that no doctors visit the camps to examine Chechen refugees. Many Chechen refugees have injuries sustained during the Russian war campaign against the Chechen populous and report that even bandages are often not available at Polish asylum camps. Disease is rampant amongst Chechen refugees, especially amongst children. Dyspepsia is extremely prevalent owing to the poor food served by the Polish authorities in the camps. Chechen refugees often refer to the food as 'rotten'.

Chechen refugees are barred from accessing social welfare provisions. Further, despite their entitlement to a small monthly stipend, over half of Chechen refugees do not receive such a stipendiary. Not only this, but the Polish government has seemingly seen it fit to prevent Chechen refuges from realising their full rights as refugee persons. For example, Polish authorities have issued Chechen refuges with temporary permits to live in Poland as opposed to asylum status. It is also reported that nearly all the children of Chechen refugees are without any form of schooling. As a result, many Chechen refugee children are illiterate.

2. Suggested Action

Please write to the following people. Sample letters may be found below for you to modify and use.

1. Contact the UN High Commission for Refugees and request that Dr. Jaime Ruiz de Santiago meet with the Refugee Union for the Protection of Rights to discuss the refugees' problems.

Mr Antonio Guterres
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Case Postale 2500
CH-1211 Genève 2 Dépôt
Switzerland.

Tel. +41 22 739 8111 (automatic switchboard).

2. Contact the Polish embassy in your country and request that Poland honour the right of all refugees within its borders in line with international law. You can contact the Polish embassy in London at the address below.

H.E. Zbigniew Matuszewski
Embassy of the Republic of Poland
47 Portland Place
London W1B 1JH

Tel : 0870 774 2700
Fax : 020 7291 3575; 0870 774 2755
E-mail : polishembassy@polishembassy.org.uk

3. Contact the Foreign Secretary of your country and request him to raise these points with his Polish counterpart.

Rt. Hon. Jack Straw MP
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London
SW1A 2AH

Fax: +44 20 7839 2417
Email private.office@fco.gov.uk


[Your name]
[Your address]

[Date]

Mr Antonio Guterres
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Case Postale 2500
CH-1211 Genève 2 Dépôt
Switzerland


Dear Mr Guterres

Re: Chechen Refugees in Poland

I am writing to you regarding the plight of refugees, and in particular Chechen refugees, in Poland.

It has come to my attention that 200 refugees recently came off an almost three week hunger strike to protest against the brutal living conditions they were being kept in. Their demands included holding a meeting with the Polish Representative of the UN High Commission for Refugees in Poland, Dr. Jaime Ruiz de Santiago. To my knowledge, this has not yet been granted.

Chechen refugees are living in terrible conditions in isolated asylum camps, with three to four families often being accommodated in one room with one lavatory, one shower and one kitchen on each floor for all the families living on the same floor. Such conditions have lead to very poor health problems among the refugees. Chechen refugees report that no doctors visit the camps to examine them. Disease is rampant amongst Chechen refugees, especially amongst children.

Chechen refugees are also barred from accessing social welfare provisions. Additionally, the Polish government has seemingly seen it fit to prevent Chechen refuges from realising their full rights as refugee persons. For example, Polish authorities have issued Chechen refuges with temporary permits to live in Poland as opposed to asylum status. It is also reported that nearly all the children of Chechen refugees are without any form of schooling.

Such treatment of refugees falls foul of Poland's obligations under international law, notably the Geneva Refugee Convention and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

I urge you to take immediate action to redress this very grave problem and arrange a meeting with the Refugee Union for the Protection of Rights.

I look forward to hearing from you shortly regarding the immediate action you have taken in this matter.

Yours sincerely


[Your signature]

[Your name]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Your name]
[Your address]

[Date]
H.E. Zbigniew Matuszewski
Embassy of the Republic of Poland
47 Portland Place
London W1B 1JH

Tel : 0870 774 2700
Fax : 020 7291 3575; 0870 774 2755
E-mail : polishembassy@polishembassy.org.uk


Dear Mr Matuszewski

Re: Chechen Refugees in Poland

I am writing to you regarding the plight of refugees, and in particular Chechen refugees, in Poland. It has come to my attention that 200 refugees recently came off an almost three week hunger strike to protest against the brutal living conditions they were being kept in.

Chechen refugees are living in terrible conditions in isolated asylum camps, with three to four families often being accommodated in one room with one lavatory, one shower and one kitchen on each floor for all the families living on the same floor. Such conditions have lead to very poor health problems among the refugees. Chechen refugees report that no doctors visit the camps to examine them. Disease is rampant amongst Chechen refugees, especially amongst children.

Chechen refugees are also barred from accessing social welfare provisions. Additionally, the Polish government has seemingly seen it fit to prevent Chechen refuges from realising their full rights as refugee persons. For example, Polish authorities have issued Chechen refuges with temporary permits to live in Poland as opposed to asylum status. It is also reported that nearly all the children of Chechen refugees are without any form of schooling.

Such treatment of refugees falls foul of Poland's obligations under international law, notably the Geneva Refugee Convention and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. If Poland is to be a fully fledged and respected EU member, then it is advised to honour the rights of refugees, including Chechens, within its borders.

I urge you to take immediate action to redress this very grave problem.

I look forward to hearing from you shortly regarding the immediate action you have taken in this matter.

Yours sincerely


[Your signature]

[Your name]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


[Your name]
[Your address]

[Date]
Rt Hon Jack Straw MP
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London SW1A 2AH,

Fax: +44 20 7839 2417
Email private.office@fco.gov.uk


Dear Mr. Straw

Re: Chechen Refugees in Poland

I am writing to you regarding the plight of refugees, and in particular Chechen refugees, in Poland. It has come to my attention that 200 refugees recently came off an almost three week hunger strike to protest against the brutal living conditions they were being kept in.

Chechen refugees are living in terrible conditions in isolated asylum camps, with three to four families often being accommodated in one room with one lavatory, one shower and one kitchen on each floor for all the families living on the same floor. Such conditions have lead to very poor health problems among the refugees. Chechen refugees report that no doctors visit the camps to examine them. Disease is rampant amongst Chechen refugees, especially amongst children.

Chechen refugees are also barred from accessing social welfare provisions. Additionally, the Polish government has seemingly seen it fit to prevent Chechen refuges from realising their full rights as refugee persons. For example, Polish authorities have issued Chechen refuges with temporary permits to live in Poland as opposed to asylum status. It is also reported that nearly all the children of Chechen refugees are without any form of schooling.

Such treatment of refugees falls foul of Poland's obligations under international law, notably the Geneva Refugee Convention and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. If Poland is to be a fully fledged and respected EU member, then it is advised to honour the rights of refugees, including Chechens, within its borders.

I urge you to take immediate action to redress this very grave problem and raise these issues with your Polish counterpart.

I look forward to hearing from you shortly regarding the immediate action you have taken in this matter.

Yours sincerely


[Your signature]

[Your name]



--------------------------
Islamic Human Rights Commission
PO Box 598
Wembley
HA9 7XH
United Kingdom

T (44) 20 8904 4222
F (44) 20 8904 5183
E info@ihrc.org
W www.ihrc.org.uk





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