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Objective Human Rights report on IDPs' conditions

By Salome Modebadze
Thursday, November 18
In his Report on the Human Rights Situation of Internally Displaced Persons and Conflict-Affected Individuals in Georgia supported by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, the Public Defender of Georgia Giorgi Tugushi gave a brief analysis of the protection mechanisms toward the IDPs in the frames of the state policy on November 17. The project monitors in the five regional offices conducted regular visits to IDP collective centers to identify prevailing systemic problems and provide legal consultations with the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia during the reporting period (January - July, 2010).

According to the statistical information provided by the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees for January 2010, 249 365 internally displaced persons (87 962 families) reside in the territory of Georgia. The total number of IDPs from the 1990’s amounts to 233 453 individuals; following the 2008 conflict, they were joined by another 15 912. According to statistical information as at January 2010, the accommodation issues of 23 000 displaced families had already been resolved including both the so-called “new” and “old” IDPs. But the Ministry explains that approximately 28 000 IDPs will continue to live in exceptionally harsh conditions unless additional funds are sourced in a timely manner.

Encouraging the different Ministries to cooperate for protecting the rights of IDPs in the frames of the “Law of Georgia on Internally Displaced Persons”, Tugushi spoke of the clear deterioration of living conditions resulting from the re-allocation of IDPs to alternative accommodation. He reminded the Government to ensure essential social and economic conditions necessary for the safety of IDPs at their places of permanent residence and return the private property, including houses and land, to the IDP or his or her legal successor. Tugushi then stressed that the IDPs should not be resettled from collective centers, unless there is a written agreement with the resident IDP or arbitrary occupation of the spaces.

According to the “Action Plan for the Implementation of the State Strategy on IDPs during 2009-2012” issued by the Government, there are no favorable conditions for the IDPs to return to their places of habitual residence nowadays. “Thus, it is imperative that neither Russia, as an occupying power, nor the de facto Governments of the breakaway territories should interfere with the realization of this right, which will be fulfilled only when the internally displaced persons will be given the opportunity to voluntarily return to their places of residence,” was stressed in the document.

Most new cottage-type accommodations according to the Amnesty International are removed from administrative centers and the IDPs do not have guaranteed access to hospitals, schools, and other facilities. Low-quality construction works of the cottages are apparent even for the common individual. The IDPs receive assistance from the Government for superficial repairs which is not sufficient for the damages affected by periodic flooding but a special mechanism has been developed by the Ministry to coordinate IDP livelihoods to easily identify flaws in the socio-economic condition and the process of integration of IDPs.

To ensure the positive developments of their activities, the Government according to Tugushi should focus more on vocational education and credit programmes and guarantee the IDP accessibility to these types of programmes. “An internally displaced person is legally entitled to a monthly allowance, and has the right to receive targeted social assistance. The respective governing bodies are under an obligation to assist IDPs in temporary employment in accordance with their profession and qualifications, reimburse the expenditures for the treatment of vulnerable categories of IDPs at medical facilities, and ensure the constitutional right of IDPs to adequate education,” was stressed in the report.

The lack of communication between IDPs and the Ministry remains one of the main problems in our country. The creation of a hot line and reception-centre has enabling IDPs to obtain necessary information or consultation for 24-hours a day from the Ministry with the support of international donors has been positively assessed by the Public Defender. “As a rule IDPs request specific information regarding a particular issue based on the fact that they have not received a written response to an analogous query from the Ministry or have for months waited for a response in vain,” was explained in the report.

According to the information provided by the Public Defender’s Office the Georgian legislation is more or less complete in the field of IDPs. “The main principles and norms laid down in the laws and other normative acts do not contradict with international standards but there are still numerous challenges which need great effort and active work despite significant advances regarding IDPs,” the Public Defender said, adding that the number of IDPs in Georgia does not allow for rapid resolution to all existing problems, however, through carefully planned policies, a gradual solution of the problems is still feasible.

Expressing his gratitude for the ”objective” report of the Public Defender, Koba Subeliani Minister of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees promised he would consider all the recommendations addressed to the Ministry.

“There have been such a wide range of activities carried out for the IDPs which they couldn’t even dream of,” Subeliani told the media adding that it’s always difficult to make decisions concerning the IDPs - people in need of special care.