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Heavy police presence as IDPs evicted from Hotel “Abkhazia”

By Salome Modebadze
Tuesday, August 16
The process of the eviction of IDPs from hotel “Abkhazia” has finished. At 6 a.m on Monday morning police groups blocked the entrances of the building at Vazha-Pshavela #25 and made people leave the compact settlement where they had been living since 1991. Policemen sealed off the area around the building while trucks and buses assisted people in transportation of their belongings. The eviction process ended without serious confrontation but as one of the IDPs explained to The Messenger “there were so many policemen in front of the hotel that there was no sense in resisting them.” “We were so scared that we knew if we wouldn’t have left the building they would have made us do so,” she added.

The National Forum accused the Government of illegal activities against the IDPs. As Soso Vakhtangashvili leader of the regional organization stated, the new owner of the building Ltd “Velajio” should have offered fair alternative spaces or financial compensation to IDPs based on special agreement. Moreover Vakhtangashvili claimed that the police had neglected the decrees of President Mikheil Saakashvili and Vano Merabishvili the Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia (MIA) which considered IDPs living in “Abkhazia” hotel as the legal owners of the building.

IDPs who received a warning from the MRA on August 5 had rallied against the MRA decision and addressed the NGOs and diplomatic corps for support. Vakhtangashvili worried that the people who had been forced from their homes in 1992 are still in exile. On Sunday night IDPs and supporters stood with lit candles in front of the hotel. At a “mourning rally” Vakhtangashvili recollected August 14, 1992 – the day when the war in Abkhazia started and spoke of an amazing coincidence. “The authorities are trying to physically defeat us; they may make us leave this building but they would never break us morally,” he stated.

Opposition representatives condemned the Government for their “vandalism”. Accusing them for an “inhuman” approach towards the IDPs Lasha Chkhartishvili from the Conservative Party emphasized that the Government is “fighting on the enemies' side” by making Abkhazians leave “Abkhazia” for the second time. More than half of the families had agreed to take the USD 10 000 offered by the MRA as compensation while those who still reject the deal remain homeless or will hire garages in which to shelter. Some IDPs, tired with the “senseless struggle” with the Government said they would ask international society for shelter. But others promised they would continue protecting their rights and warned the Government that they would pay for their actions.

Rusudan Marshania from Synergy Network - Group of Advocacy has been among the NGOs trying to solve the problems of IDPs. But as Marshania told us “such advocacy is not efficient”. “NGOs are trying to help IDPs but there are no Governmental programs assisting them - the officials are always postponing everything,” she stated. The courts also seem to have limits from the Government because none of the suits filed by IDPs have ever been heard.

Sophio Khorguani from the Georgian Party addressed the “intellectual elite” to express their opinion about the eviction of IDPs. Praising the professionalism of Georgian people Khorgiuani underlined the moral responsibility of the citizens whose position is always decisive in the process of creation of the democratic state. In a statement released by MRA on Monday the Ministry congratulated the people with “the ending of a 20-year torture” of IDPs living in anti-sanitaria for so many years in hotel “Abkhazia” and stated that they had fulfilled their election promises given to IDPs. “The owner of the building with the petition of the MRA has offered IDPs USD 10 000 as compensation or alternative accommodation in Rustavi,” said a statement emphasizing that the process of eviction was carried out with UN’s engagement in the frames of the international norms.