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Georgian Opposition Leader Agrees To Defends IDPs' Interests


IDPs gathering at a church in Tbilisi. Over the past few months IDPs have been protesting their imminent rehouse to rural areas outside Tbilisi.

IDPs gathering at a church in Tbilisi. Over the past few months IDPs have been protesting their imminent rehouse to rural areas outside Tbilisi.

Georgia's Minister for Internally Displaced Persons, Accomodation, and Refugees, Koba Subeliani, was quoted by Caucasus Press on December 21 as saying "a fantastic amount" has been done this year to alleviate the plight of tens of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in temporary accommodation in Tbilisi and elsewhere in Georgia.

But, some IDPs disagree.

On December 17 and again on December 21, several hundred of IDPs staged a protest outside the Georgian parliament building to protest their imminent eviction from some 25 buildings in Tbilisi, which they occupied without official permission. A group of Tbilisi-based IDPs has since solicited former human rights ombudsman Sozar Subari to head a new committee representing their interests.

For the past six months, IDPs in Tbilisi have staged repeated protests against the government's plans to evict them from temporary accommodation and rehouse them in accommodation they claim is both substandard and located in remote, rural regions where they have little chance of finding employment -- some IDPs argue that the closest village is five kilometers away along mountain paths.

One displaced person, Nana Pipia, 46, set herself alight on October 25 to demand that Subeliani either step down or re-house IDPs in Tbilisi. She had reportedly met earlier with a senior ministry official who responded to her protest of being given housing in rural Georgia, with little in the vicinity "but grass," with "then you can live on grass." Pipia died three weeks later of her injuries. Some IDPs have demanded that Subeliani be held criminally responsible for her death.

The IDPs currently under threat of eviction were informed in writing earlier this month that they would be rehoused either in western or eastern Georgia. But, according to Caucasus Press, opposition parties represented on the Tbilisi municipal council, who have spoken on the IDPs' behalf at protest demonstrations, claim that the eviction notices are not legally valid, as they were not signed by a government official. The eviction date has been pushed back from December 20 to January 15.

The Georgian Party, of which Subari is one of the heads, has approached the senior UNHCR and UNDP representatives in Tbilisi to solicit their help in preventing the evictions, according to Caucasus Press on December 22. Opposition municipal council members Viktor Dolidze and Kakha Kukava have similarly sought to secure the help of the Council of Europe and other international organizations.

On December 22, IDPs gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi to demand an official investigation into why the Georgian government spent millions of dollars in post-conflict aid on restoring substandard housing for displaced persons "in villages where no one wants to live."

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.

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