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Threatened in peaceful time

Threatened in peaceful time

4 June is the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression. I thought that day was not celebrated here. Children, bombs, tragedy, war. This is not our story.

However a person from the Children's Fund of Kazakhstan explained to me that since 1996 Kazakhstan has been receiving refugee children, who belong to the category of the aforementioned Day. And there are quite a few such children. And their life despite their being far away from military aggression is full of difficulties and troubles anyway.

Elvira Vatlina, director of the Fund, says that the biggest problem encountered by refugees from Chechnya, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan is the absence of money for life.

The migration police have their own rules of legalising such people. Not each of them can aspire to obtain the refugee status. It means that not everybody can legally stay in Kazakhstan. True, it does not mean that people would rise and go where there are only ruins remaining instead of their homes, where people are killed each day and where there is no food.

In general, in each separate case the refugees have enough problems. And as a result: small kids don't go to kindergartens, for which their parents have nothing to pay. Grown up children don't go to schools, because they don't know the state language. It often happens that the school age youth don't go to school for a year or two and then lagging behind the school programme they just stay at home all the time. The Fund employees try to find these children and bring them back to study. However what does "bring them back" mean, when nobody really cares about destinies of such children?

The Fund managed to find ten Afghan refugee kids, who did not go to school. They were invited to study in a Sunday school, which the fund opened on its own base. A year after, on applications from the state education department, Red Cross, and Red Crescent the kids were taken in a boarding school for children with limited capabilities. However their education there is illegal. They were accepted there under responsibility of the administration, so to say. During official inspections the children don't go to school not to disturb bureaucrats by their presence. Elvira Alexandrovna says that such solution of the problem can go well for the kids. As long as the society does not react to them in any manner whatsoever, even such strange care seems great and useful.

The society does not really want to associate with this pain? So it seems. Chairmen of cultural ethnic centres say that the refugee kids don't have study books on their own languages in Kazakhstan. It means that learning the state language they will not be able to continue education on their own tongues. True, cultural centres and the same Children's Fund are trying to fill this gap on their own, ordering books in different languages from Moscow, copying available literature, but what can public organisations do? Not too much really.

The Fund employees say that they started to work on problems of the refugee children under the patronage of the UN department of High Commissioner for refugees. The DHCR, realising that the problems of such children are very special created a position of psychologist in the Fund. These children need psychological aid, sometimes deep and long therapy. Behind them they have not some computer war. It is not an occasion that the Fund conducts competitions for a good picture and children with some frightening persistence draw up tanks, machine guns, gallows.

For many years the children had serious problems with schools. If they did not have reference documents, confirming their refugee status, they were not accepted in schools. The teachers referred to a secret law forbidding to take refugees to schools. They said that such children were a burden for other good pupils, that they didn't study well, and that nobody was praised for bad progress of the pupils. Top officials don't go into details: who are bad pupils, foreigners or locals. More than one year would be needed to convince education bureaucrats that the children independently on their citizenship and residential status must study in schools. After all, their parents did not come to Kazakhstan on a tourist visa, they escaped from war.

Attending school is a single uniting link between the children and the outer world. The refugees have to live on their own usually. Can pupils from refugees continue their studies in special colleges or Universities of the country? If we proceed from the fact that one must pay to obtain trade or higher education, then such children don't have any hope to better their lot in the future. Last year the DHCR financed studies if five such kids in a lyceum. This year there have not been any sponsors for refugee children, although there are enough intelligent, successful and well-read pupils among them.

Elvira Vatina says that the law on refugees mentions obligatory primary education for such children, but it says nothing about trade schools or higher education. The state does not have quotas for these kids. Only one thing remains. To go begging on the street or to try to survive by some other means. Trade courses have been opened for the refugee children by the Fund. Boys come there to study. But they don't have any rosy illusions about their peaceful life in the foreign land.

Akhmed Muradov, chairman of Chechen-Ingush cultural centre, says that the refugees don't fell well in Kazakhstan. Problems start behind the door of migration police department. People are humiliated and insulted there. Lower rank officers openly violate their rights. One thing is to refuse registration to Chechen people on the basis of convincing and legal facts and another thing is to humiliate their human dignity.

Currently the international Kazakhstani bureau for protection of human rights and freedoms has an application from a Chechen family that has been rudely treated by police. The husband was arrested at work for the lack of work permit. Can there be license for cleaning and taking away garbage? Nevertheless, the man was arrested although he had his passport. The passport was taken from him and then he was closed in a cell. Supposedly to establish his person. "One would ask why? - Akhmed Seidrakhmanovich says with indignation, - just to humiliate him and take the last kopeck from him." When the man asked a permission to go to toilet, policemen did not let him go there. Then when everybody went asleep they made him clean the toilet. What for? Only for his being a refugee?

Objections of the police that these people look like terrorists or militants and that's why they must be treated suspiciously and harshly, do not justify lawlessness and moral violence. What's the most terrible is that there are children in these humiliated families, who see how their parents are treated in a peaceful country. Is it not too much for these small people?

Currently the UN department of High Commissioner for refugees wants to carry out a census of all refuges in Kazakhstan. In particular they want to register all refugees from Chechnya. Lately, when the situation in the country has become more or less stable, many Chechens rushed from Kazakhstan back home, supposedly to receive compensations for their destroyed houses. But after the May 9 events a new flow of refugees started coming back. Many of them were refused registration upon their return in Kazakhstan. The migration police filters the newcomers and if a person once lived in Kazakhstan and then went away and returned again they say to him openly: "You shouldn't have gone away!".

Actually Chechens find themselves in the most complicated situation here. It is aggravated by the fact that Chechens officially can't receive the refugee status because Chechnya is a subject of the Russian Federation. Once every three months Chechens must register. If the term expires, they will have to pay fines, which they can't pay for the lack of money, so they are expelled from the country.

But where they are expelled to? To where the war continues? Moreover, they say that police can expel a father, very humanely leaving a mother with children in Kazakhstan. Nobody cares how they are going to live without a bread winner in the foreign land.

There have been precedents of such care for refugees. And, perhaps, there will be. Despite the fact that the international community made such official date - the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression.

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Текст: Elina Alkova