GEO

IDP evictions, continued

21 July, 2011

In a new wave of evictions, internally displaced persons (IDPs) were forced to vacate four temporary shelters in Tbilisi on July 18, following previous rounds of evictions in August 2010 and January 2011. A majority of these IDPs were old caseload from Abkhazia displaced during the early 1990’s conflict. They were privately accommodated in Tbilisi before moving to the aforementioned shelters after the 2008 war. TI Georgia staff visited three of the four eviction sites, to monitor the process and understand the details.

While the eviction process went off peacefully at the sites that TI Georgia was monitoring (Sakenergo building on Uznadze Street #8, the hospital at Kazbegi Avenue #16, and the music school on Samghereti Street #13), the situation escalated at the fourth site, a kindergarten #204 building in Varketili. According to media reports, this building was inhabited by 14 IDP families (old caseload from Abkhazia) and 5 poor non-IDP families. The former category was offered alternative accommodation by the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees (MRA) but the latter complained that they had not received any housing offers from the government and had nowhere to go. These poor families locked themselves inside the building and refused to vacate it, preventing the police from carrying out eviction procedures. The provision of housing to poor families is not something that the MRA should be made responsible for. Instead, the level of accountability of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Social Affairs in this direction needs to be higher, which is not the main focus of this blog. For their part, IDPs were saying that they would rather go back to living with their relatives in the capital than move to the accommodation sites in remote regions offered by the MRA.

According to the MRA representatives, the eviction process was in compliance with standard operating procedures, whereby IDPs who are living illegally in temporary shelters are supposed to vacate those buildings and move to alternative dwelling areas in which they would be given private ownership. Furthermore, the MRA representatives claimed that IDPs were given the time and opportunity to make informed choices about their new places of residence.

To shed the light on some of the details about this process, TI Georgia staff visited one of the sites, Uznadze Street #8, several days before the eviction. The first thing that was visible upon entering the building was a ten-day notification posted on the wall in the hallway. The eviction notice was smaller in size than the previous samples that we described in our earlier blog. In it, as usual, the MRA gave IDPs ten days to vacate the building, while also offering them free transportation to alternative accommodation sites prior to the eviction, and a hotline number for further reference. Yet, unlike the old notification, the announcement we saw did not make a distinction between the status of collective centers and temporary shelters, nor gave it general technical descriptions of the alternative buildings and surrounding infrastructure or details about consultation meetings and assistance in transportation of furniture. In addition, like in the previous instances, the new eviction notice was not dated or signed, and we could not verify when exactly it was actually delivered to the IDPs in the building.

Yet, we also observed some positive developments compared to the past experience. Specifically, beside the new eviction notice, there was a fairly detailed list of 11 alternative accommodation sites posted on the wall together with six photos of buildings in Chkhorotsku, Lagodekhi, Bakurtsikhe and Abasha districts.

The table below shows the names and location of all those sites where the recently evicted IDPs are supposed to be resettled by the MRA:

#

Region

District

City/Village

Location

1

Samegrelo

Abasha

Norio

School of Abashispiri

2

Samegrelo

Abasha

Norio

Vocational School Building # 1

3

Samegrelo

Abasha

Norio

Unknown

4

Samegrelo

Chkhorotsku

Zumi

Factory Building

5

Samegrelo

Chkhorotsku

Lesichine

Tea Factory Kindergarten

6

Samegrelo

Zugdidi

Chkadua

Pioneers' Camp

7

Samegrelo

Zugdidi

Narazeni

Khetsera Factory Building

8

Samegrelo

Khobi

Torsa Dgvaba

Factory Building

9

Samegrelo

Tsalenjikha

Jvari

Flats on Kostava Str # 10

10

Kakheti

Lagodekhi

Lagodekhi

Unknown

11

Kakheti

Gurjaani

Bakurtsikhe

Unknown

TI Georgia welcomes the fact that the MRA, prior to the eviction, provided IDPs with the necessary information and services about the eviction and resettlement. However, we were surprised to see that the new eviction notice did not include the level of details that was provided by the old samples, mentioned above. We believe that the MRA should continue providing IDPs with as much information as possible to help them make well-informed choices about alternative housing offers. This, in turn, would increase the level of transparency and accountability of the Ministry but also build further trust among IDPs. At the same time, we urge the government to ensure that IDPs resettled to new accommodation sites in the regions are able to enjoy unimpeded access to basic social and healthcare infrastructure (e.g., school, employment, transportation, and medical services) which they might have to surrender after leaving the capital.

Author: Lasha Gogidze