Doc. 10410

22 January 2005

Situation of refugees and displaced persons in the Russian Federation and some other CIS countries

Recommendation 1667 (2004)

Reply from the Committee of Ministers

adopted at the 912th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (19 January 2005)

1.       The Committee of Ministers has carefully examined Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1667 (2004) on the situation of refugees and displaced persons in the Russian Federation and some other CIS countries, which it has forwarded to the governments of the member states. It has also communicated it to the Council of Europe Development Bank and to the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.

2.       Like the Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee of Ministers notes with satisfaction that the numbers of refugees and displaced persons in Moldova, the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Belarus have decreased considerably over the last few years as a result of the naturalisation process. It is also pleased to note that all the countries concerned have made considerable progress in terms of bringing their national legislation in line with international standards.

3.       The Council of Europe closely monitors the observance of asylum-seekers’, refugees’ and displaced persons’ rights in member states, including Moldova, the Russian Federation and Ukraine. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights plays an important role in this respect. In his 2003 Annual Report, he provided an analysis on the situation of internally displaced persons in Europe, urging greater political attention to this issue. He has and will continue to examine the issue of displaced persons in the context of his country visits and in his follow-up work relating to countries previously visited. The Ad hoc Committee of Experts on Legal Aspects of Territorial Asylum, Refugees and Stateless Persons (CAHAR) also plays an important role not least as a forum for exchange of information and best practices among member states, which contributes to the reform efforts of the states concerned in this field.

4.       The Committee of Ministers recalls that in its reply to Assembly Recommendation 1631 (2003) on internally displaced persons, it underlined the special importance of the Guiding Principles on internal displacement, issued within the United Nations. It also informed the Parliamentary Assembly that CAHAR has set up a Working Party with a view to elaborating a recommendation on internally displaced persons. This Working Party will start working in 2005, and will also examine the situation of displaced populations in member countries concerned with a particular attention to the compliance of national legislation in force with

the Guiding Principles, in so far as this work is of relevance for the elaboration of the Recommendation. The Recommendation will seek to encourage the promotion and implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement in the member states. It will also take into account a review of those principles that correspond to existing binding standards elaborated by the Council of Europe

5.       The Committee of Ministers considers that it is important that Council of Europe member states respect the concept of internally displaced persons defined in the United Nations Guiding Principles. They should also observe their obligations under international law concerning the protection of the rights of refugees, asylum seekers and displaced persons. As the Committee of Ministers has stated on other occasions, the Council of Europe is at the disposal of the member states concerned to provide assistance to states making requests for it, in order to help them to bring their legislation into conformity with the Guiding Principles on internal displacement as well as with the relevant norms of the Council of Europe, and to adapt their policies and programmes in favour of displaced persons. In this context, the Committee of Ministers also wishes to stress that member states must take active steps to ensure compliance of their regional regulations and administrative practices with federal or national legislation.

6.       The Parliamentary Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers continue and intensify programmes aimed at improving the situation of different categories of migrants, including awareness-raising and training programmes. The Committee of Ministers notes that presently, technical assistance is provided to the authorities of Moldova, the Russian Federation and Ukraine in the development of policies and practice in the fields of asylum, migration or integration. It will look into how these programmes could be intensified and extended.

7.       The Committee of Ministers recalls that under Article II of the Articles of Agreement of the Council of Europe Development Bank, its primary purpose is to help in solving the social problems with which European countries are or may be faced as a result of the presence of refugees, displaced persons or migrants consequent upon movements of refugees or other forced movements of populations. Since 1956 the Development Bank has financed projects in aid of refugees and migrants for a total amount of 4.3 billion euros. Projects funded in this sector primarily concern the building or rehabilitation of reception centres, social housing (temporary and permanent), preventive healthcare programmes, education and vocational training and basic facilities to serve the immediate needs of populations who have fallen victim to exceptional circumstances.

8.       As suggested by the Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee of Ministers encourages the governments of the Russian Federation and Ukraine to join the Development Bank and present concrete projects for financing in the field of migration. It also invites the Government of Moldova to step up its cooperation with the Development Bank and to present concrete projects for financing in the field of migration. The Committee of Ministers observes that the Development Bank is in very regular contact with the Moldovan authorities and that the Administrative Council has approved inter alia a donation to finance a project for children in precarious situations.

9.       The Committee of Ministers recalls that it has previously dealt with the issue of Meskhetian Turks in a couple of replies to questions asked by members of the Parliamentary Assembly to which it refers.1 One of the two main aspects, which must be dealt with in a parallel and complementary way, is to ensure respect for the human rights and to enhance the legal status of Meskhetians in the countries of their current residence with a view to enabling them to obtain lasting solutions, including access to permanent residency and citizenship. The second main aspect of addressing the Meskhetian issue concerns the fulfilment by Georgia of obligations undertaken at the time of accession to the Council of Europe in relation to the deported population from Meskhi including the development in Georgia of a legal framework and of an appropriate environment that would provide a viable option of return.

10.       The Committee of Ministers agrees with the Parliamentary Assembly that there should be no pressure on the Chechen displaced population to return to Chechnya, recalling that freedom of movement and a choice of place of residence within national frontiers, as guaranteed by Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 to the European Convention on Human Rights, are fundamental rights.

11.       Finally, the Committee of Ministers reiterates what it stated recently, in its reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendations 1657 (2004) on disappeared persons in Belarus and 1658 (2004) on the persecution of the press in the Republic of Belarus, that its goal is that Belarus, as an integral part of Europe and a country whose people contributed to the common European heritage, should become a fully-fledged member of the Council of Europe. It stated that in order to bring Belarus closer to the international community and to the Council of Europe, it was clear that the human rights situation must improve. In line with this statement, the Committee of Ministers appeals to the Government of Belarus to fully comply with international instruments and standards concerning asylum seekers and refugees.

1 CM/Del/Dec(2002)808/3.3 and CM/AS(2003)Quest422 final.