Internally Displaced Persons of the Samegrelo Region: Problems and Integration in the Local Society

Georgian IDPs

After almost two decades of the ethnic conflicts in the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the legacy of the displacement remains a reality for 246,000 internally displaced people in Georgia. The number of internally displaced population is substantial for a small country like Georgia, comprising 6% of the total population.

Georgia endured several waves of the conflicts. Approximately, 220 000 persons have been displaced as the result of the conflicts in early 90’s. The rest of the internally displaced persons (IDP) have been displaced as a result of the war between Georgia and Russia in August 2008.

The majority of ‘old’ IDPs found refuge and still resides in the buildings of the former hospitals, factories, hotels, schools and other public institutions. In the initial years of displacement, the IDPs were not provided with an effective state policy of protection. It was not until 2007, when the Georgian Government adopted the State Strategy on IDPs recognizing the right of the internally displaced persons to local integration as a durable solution until their return home becomes feasible.

On 28 May 2009, the Georgian government amended the earlier 2007 State Strategy on IDPs and adopted an Actual Plan on Internally Displaced Persons to also include the newly displaced persons from the South Ossetia in its scope. The Action Plan aims to provide durable housing solutions to all displaced living on the territory of the country, to provide long-term solutions to the problems faced by IDPs and to promote their socio-economic integration.

As one of the first steps to reach the goal, the Action plan recognized a necessity to provide decent housing opportunities for IDPs. Subsequently, the Georgian government began to transfer ownership rights to the IDPs living in collective centers and to renovate collective centers eligible for the ownership transfer.

In the framework of this initiative, the government started to rehabilitate the collective centers in the regional towns of Georgia. The collective centers in Zugdidi, Tskaltubo, Poti, Senaki and other towns were rehabilitated.Unfortunately, the IDPs are not well-informed about the Action Plan and various development programs for IDPs, including the rehabilitation programs. To fill this gap, the Heinrich Boell Foundation in partnership with the Center for the Regional Development and Initiatives Studies has organized a public discussion in Poti and invited experts, representatives of the local governmental organizations and IDPs to participate in an open discussion on problems penetrating more than 7000 internally displaced persons in Poti.

The following speakers were invited at the discussion: Madona Kharebava, the Chaiperson of the local non-governmental organization DEA and Irakli Absnadze, the Director of the local non-governmental organization Argomedia. The discussion was moderated by Lasha Zarginava.

According to the experts, the Government of Georgia plans to build 31 new buildings for the IDPs on the territory of the town. In the long-term, the government also plans to build 100 more new buildings for IDPs in Poti. It is foreseen to re-allocate IDPs living in various towns of Western Georgia (Tskaltubo, Zugdidi) to these newly built apartments in Poti.

The experts expressed their concern about the lack of the adequate and up-to-date information among the IDPs about their relocation plans. Moreover, there are no discussions within the local population of Poti on how the town will handle the relocation of the large numbers of IDPs. High unemployment remains a problem for both the local and the IDP groups of the population. IDPs face pressing needs for a better health care service and educational opportunities.

Finally, the experts underlined the necessity on behalf of IDPs to actively participate in the decision-making process by requesting and lobbying for their interests.

Since the beginning of 2010, the Heinrich Boell Foundation, within its Democracy Program organizes public debates/discussions in various towns of Georgia. The Heinrich Boell Foundation has signed a partnership agreement with the Center for the Regional Development and Initiatives Studies to organize public debates in Gurjaani, Telavi, Poti and Batumi.