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Immigrant families without legal protection

August 1, 2015
Nino Tsotsoria

According to the latest official information of the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons, 35 thousand people in Georgia are victims of natural disaster and require social, economic support or a place to live. The state of ecomigrants is complicated by the fact that there is no uniform definition of “ecomigrants” on the legislative level. Caucasus Environmental NGO Network (CENN) has studied the state of ecomigrants and presented special recommendations to the government bodies in order to solve the existing problems.

In the research of issues of ecomigrant families, the main legislative frame is the law on the internally displaced persons, however, the current law does not apply to ecomigrant families, because the definition of refugees and IDPs does not include natural or technological disasters as a prerequisite for internal displacement. According to the legal expert, Giorgi Dvalidze, in practice, the legislative frame cannot apply to ecomigrant families and they are left without protection from the state. 

“Grounds for internally displaced persons and ecomigrants displacement are different, however, their needs for new dwelling space, integration and social, economic help are absolutely identical. The state policy should be oriented to cover all needs from minimum accommodation including the integration component,”- said the expert of CENN, Giorgi Dvalidze.

The Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons defines the ecomigrant families based on the order N779 of the Minister, according to which, victim families of a natural disaster and subjects to displacement (ecomigrants) are considered to be those families whose houses or part of them were destroyed or damaged and are not recoverable. According to the same order, ecomigrants are also those families whose houses have not been destroyed, but natural disasters surrounding their territory threaten their life, health and property, because of landslide, downpour, rock avalanches, rockfall, river erosion or snow avalanches, except an earthquake and volcano.  

According to Giorgi Dvalidze, this definition, by the rule of settlement, is a regulatory document for ecomigrant families, which defines the term ecomigrant only for specific purposes, who is in need to get a place to live.
“The definition of ecomigrant cannot be limited to the definition of a family which is in need of place to live, we need more general definition. However, the definition that was adopted in 2014 also has flaws. In particular, natural and technological disasters are listed in details; this is an exhaustive list of natural disasters but does not include volcano and earthquake. Accordingly, persons affected by these natural disasters will be automatically excluded from the definition of ecomigrants. This is one aspect of the bill that has to be changed and does not exclude persons who are affected by an earthquake or volcano, because these persons also require guarantee of legal protection, they should not stay out of legal protection,”- said the legal expert Giorgi Dvalidze. 
Nonexistence of the definition of ecomigrant families causes further problems. It is hard to gather statistical data, there is no research for needs of families, and accordingly it is impossible to help ecomigrants on the site, resettle them, give social benefits or resolve problems of integration in new environment. 

According to the recommendations of Caucasus Environmental NGO Network (CENN), first of all it is necessary to adopt uniform definition on the legislative level, which will prevent further problems. 

“We need to adopt uniform and comprehensive definition for ecomigrant families in order to solve all the needs of these families. It is necessary to improve work on the bill, we mean updating and conducting the process and adopting relevant sub-legislative acts. If we include ecomigrant families into the definition of internally displaced persons and apply legal protection guarantee of IDPs to them, this will partially solve some problems of ecomigrants, however, in order to satisfy those families who could not fall into the definition of IDPs, it will be necessary to adopt a separate law,” said the expert Giorgi Dvalidze. 
According to him, it is important to adopt sub-legislative acts, because single law cannot provide an effective policy for protection of ecomigrant families. The state bodies, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations and experts of other fields shall participate in adopting of sub-legislative acts. 

By recommendation of Giorgi Dvalidze, an institutional frame has to be created, which will ensure effective direction of this policy. 
“Implementation of all these requires relevant funding and this is the most significant issue to direct this process in such a way that will protect ecomigrant families,”-said the legal expert of CENN.