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Reports published on IDP evictions

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, January 26
The recent eviction of IDPs still remains one of the most painful and hot topics of the moment. Transparency International Georgia (TI Georgia) and Human Rights Watch presented their reports on the issue on January 25. According to both reports, the rights of the IDPs are being violated in the country.

The evictions are part of a process that began in August 2010 when several thousand IDP families living in 33 temporary shelters (and three collective centres) in Tbilisi were earmarked for eviction. After a large public outcry the process was halted temporarily while the international community, together with the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees (MRA), drew up a set of procedures to ensure that future evictions would be conducted fairly and within the scope of Georgian law.

TI Georgia’s reads, “The government has not done much to clarify the issues. As a result, the complex problems of a vulnerable group are politicised, generalised and misunderstood.”

The report explains the difference between temporary and collective centres for IDPs and the reasons why the IDPs are refusing the proposed apartments, “The distinction between temporary shelters and collective centres is an essential, but often misunderstood and overlooked, aspect of the current problem. Temporary shelters were set up for people fleeing the August 2008 war, whereas collective centres were legally established in 1996 to provide rights of residency to people displaced during the early 1990’s conflicts. Almost all the evictions from Tbilisi that dominate today’s headlines are of people living illegally in temporary shelters. They should not be confused with evictions from collective centres.”

Most of the evicted IDPs refused to move to Potskho-Etseri in western Georgia as, “While we have not visited the site, numerous reports describe it as isolated and disconnected, lacking transport routes to urban centres, schools, shops, agricultural land or markets/job opportunities.” The reporters state the State Strategy and Action Plan prioritises housing for IDPs in collective centres firstly for pragmatic reasons. “It is easier and more cost efficient to renovate a collective centre than it is to provide individual housing solutions to tens of thousands of privately-accommodated IDPs dispersed across the country.” However, a 2008 study commissioned by the Danish Refugee Council and Swiss Development Agency found that IDPs in collective centres face greater housing problems than IDPs in the private sector and a 2010 study by the same organisation found that 25 percent of IDPs in private accommodation in Samegrelo region lived in “very bad” housing conditions. The report concludes: “More effective public communication about decisions would go a long way towards allaying the public’s concerns.”

Human Rights Watch also has complaints against the Georgian authorities, “The authorities failed to respect international standards regarding evictions: they did not engage in genuine consultation with IDPs, did not provide reasonable advance notice of eviction, and failed to provide adequate alternatives.” The reports also points out that the evictions violated Georgia’s Law on the Internally Displaced, which prohibits the removal of IDPs without written consent and the placement in homes inferior to their current residences.