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Amnesty International slams IDPs eviction policy

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, August 8
The Georgian government must put a stop to forced evictions of internally displaced people and provide them with adequate housing, Amnesty International said, on August 6.

"In their drive to empty temporary housing shelters in the capital and provide displaced people with durable housing the Georgian authorities have ignored essential protections for those evicted and estranged many from established support networks and livelihoods," said Natalia Nozadze, Amnesty International's Georgia researcher.

According to Amnesty International, Georgia has made the provision of adequate housing for some 247,000 people displaced after military conflicts in the 1990s and 2008. However, the forced evictions carried out under the government’s action plan, violate Georgia's international obligations and have aggravated the situation for many IDPs.

"People uprooted by war need stable environments to rebuild their lives. Instead the authorities have added to their sense of insecurity by evicting them without adequate consultation, notice or access to legal remedies. In some cases, the authorities have failed to provide those evicted with adequate alternative housing," Nozadze, said.

Amnesty International underlined that the Government must implement measures to integrate displaced families into local communities, and by providing them with adequate housing and access to livelihoods to enhance their self-sufficiency and their ability to voluntary return when safe return of the refuges is not immediately possible, "Unless the eviction and relocation process is undertaken fully in line with the human rights standards and informed involvement of these affected, the measures by the Georgian authorities will disrupt rather than enable the social and economic integration of the displaced people with the local community," Nozadze said.

The Georgian Refugees ministry responded to the questions invoked by the Amnesty International's annual report. They replied that the process of resettlements for refugees is carried out according to the actions’ plan. Also, it was said that the process was carried out under the joint procedures drafted by the Refugees Ministry, UN and other international organizations and donor organizations.

The refugees ministry disseminates the statement according to which it declares that the allegations in breach of the international obligations and worsening of the refugees living conditions is no truth. The ministry explains this with the point that before refugees were living in conditions which were unfit in term of sanitation norms and were indeed in unbearable situation. Instead the Ministry suggested them the living spaces which are newly constructed for their private ownership. They also replied that before the process, long consultations were held with refugees. Nevertheless in the process of decision making, some politicians interfere and the process of refugee's resettlement acquired a political consensus. They noted that Amnesty International unlike other international organizations did not take part in this process. This was the reason for insufficient information from the Ministry. This was reflected in the report prepared by this organization, the Refugees Ministry declared.

At the same time they said that the allegation that the Refugees Ministry did not answer the questions of Amnesty International in 2011 March is not correct, as the Ministry responded with detailed answers to the organization.

Analyst Irakli Sisiashvili called the response of the Ministry of the of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia “unserious”, stating that the Amnesty International is a very serious organization having significant and adequate information on the issue, "the response that the refugees had to live in hard sanitary conditions in Tbilisi is not an adequate response on its side as the current authorities has ruled the country for 7 years already and if those people really lived in such conditions they should have been interested in the issue till now, " Sesiashvili told the Messenger and mentioned that the eviction process did not meet with the international standards and the rights of refugees were really very much violated , " just one very insignificant example" when you evict a student, who is a refugee and studies in Tbilisi and give him living space very far from the capital , is not it a violation of his rights? " . as for the Ministry's statement that Amnesty International did not have enough information regarding the issue, Sesiashvili stated that, " it is not a serious statement, as all international organizations have been involved in the issue and were looking after the situation very carefully as it was and is a theme which imposed great attention in the society. I was in Brussels when the refugees were evicted for the first time by the current authorities and Brussels’ response was very critical. Stating that such serious international organization as Amnesty International is, did not have information on the issue is unserious."

Special recommendation was given the Ministry by the Public Defender, Giorgi Tughushi , he has recommended to the Minister Koba Subeliani , to firstly carefully study those objects where the refugees are to be transferred and rehabilitate those buildings in a maximally short period of time. In case if an object is out of rehabilitation, the refugees should be moved to alternative apartments.