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Georgian Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation Refuses IDPs Status

12.11.2008
Gela Mtivlishvili, Kakheti

Internally displayed persons from Shida Kartli and Tskhinhvali region, who escaped with their lives as a result of the August war, have to live under the most unbearable of conditions in Gori, Tbilisi and other Georgian cities; they are compactly warehoused in various institutions. The Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation has not yet granted these people the status of IDPs. People, who are seeking for IDP status, are being ill-treated when they apply to the Ministry and related structures, and they are sometimes even being verbally abused.  The applications they fill out are refused to be registered. Consequently, the victims of the war cannot receive the social benefits and other allowances that are envisaged under acting Georgian legislation.

The main operational legal document of the Georgian legislation that estimates legal, economic and social guarantees of the IDPs is the Law on Internally Displaced People that was adopted in 1996 in dealing with many Georgian IDPs, resulting from human refugees from the breakaway regions in Abkhazia and South Ossetia (an estimated 350,000 IDPs in total).

According to the Article I of this law, – IDP is a citizen of Georgia or stateless person who is permanently residing in Georgia, who was forced to leave his place of permanent residency and seeking asylum within the territory of Georgia due to the threat to his life, health and freedom or the life, health and freedom of family members, as a result of aggression of a foreign state, internal conflict of mass violation of human rights. Because of these reasons tens of thousands people fled from Shida Kartli and Tskhinvali regions three months ago. After the cease-fire between Russia and Georgia, the majority of IDPs returned to their places of residence.
However, about 24 thousand people are still IDPs. Most of them now reside in nursery schools, public schools and hospitals in Gori, Tbilisi and other Georgian towns. These people cannot return to their houses because the villages of Tamarasheni, Kekhvi, Frone and Liakhvi Gorges are controlled by Russian soldiers and Ossetian armed formations. International organizations are continuing to supply victims of the war with food, clothing and other necessary items. Several countries assisted Georgia with money but IDPs cannot receive social allowances at home.

Several victims of war, residing in compactly residing buildings, have applied to the Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation and requested IDP status. However, there has been no result. The officials of the Ministry refused the IDPs to even to register their applications at the ministry.

“I visited the ministry every day during a week. They were sending me from the IDP department to the Chancellery; then back to the department. I had to wait for several hours while they were trying to find out the situation; finally, they refused to register my application for IDP status. They wondered how the aid I received was not enough for us; they asked whether they would have to load buses with food, linen, and other staff when we can return home,” said Tamar Makhatadze, a resident of Prone Gorge.

Lawyer Lia Mukhashavria also confirms the fact that the Ministry of Refugees refuses to register their applications as IDPs. Several IDPs have already applied to her for assistance. “During the bombardment people fled from their villages so rapidly that they could not even take their IDs. After they were placed in shelters, Public Registry Agency within the Ministry of Justice started registering these people. However, the Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation did not issue ID certificates; though only these documents could confirm their identity as IDP. In order to obtain this status, many people have applied to the ministry but they were refused registration. When an IDP does not have status and supported by corresponding certificate, he or she cannot enjoy the allowances envisaged under the legislation and is unable to receive as social asssistance,” said Lia Mukhashvria.

According to the Article 2 paragraph IX of the Law on IDPs, in case of mass displacement of population, IDP status shall be granted immediately. Despite that, the lawyers assess that the ministry does not protect rights of the IDPs and their legal interests.

According to the Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation, the IDPs themselves have hindered the process of being granted status and to be issued certificates. “They continually change their place of residence; most of them have returned home; while others are just going home. The problem about status granting will be resolved for IDPs as soon as migration process ends. In addition, according to the ministry’s information, the government intends to make some legislative changes when it comes to IDPs that will also hinder the process of granting status. As for the refusal about registering the applications of status-seekers, I cannot comment on that fact,” stated Maia Razmadze, an official from the Ministry.

We applied to Gia Arsenishvili, the chairperson of the Human Rights Committee of the Georgian parliament and asked him why the IDPs were not granted with the status for three months. However, he too has no information about the problem.

The representatives of the Public Defender’s office consider that the state does not provide a reasonable policy in dealing with IDPs. “Chaotically and impulsively are the problems of IDPs being resolved,’ stated Sozar Subari, the Ombudsman.

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