Georgia: Government must secure future for displaced people from 1990s conflicts and war with Russia in 2008

Press Release
August 5, 2010

Georgia: Government must secure future for displaced people from 1990s conflicts and war with Russia in 2008

Amnesty International Urges Georgian Government to Secure Future for Displaced People from 1990s Conflicts and War with Russia in 2008

August 5, 2010

The Georgian authorities must do more than the bare minimum to provide adequate housing, employment and access to health care to those displaced in conflicts in the 1990s and the war with Russia in August 2008, Amnesty International said in a new report, In the waiting room: Internally displaced people in Georgia, published today.

The new report documents how thousands of people displaced during the conflicts struggle to access basic services.

"Displaced people need more than just roofs over their heads. They need the government to ensure employment, access to health care and benefits. They also need to be consulted and be able to make the choices affecting their lives," said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia program director.

"Displaced people have the right to return to their homes in dignity and safety," said Duckworth. "However, the government has the obligation to those who cannot or do not want to do so to integrate or to resettle them in other parts of the country."

About six percent of the Georgia's population (approximately 246,000 people) is displaced within the country. About 220,000 of these left their homes during conflicts that took place in the early 1990s.

Another 128,000 people fled South Ossetia and the Kodori Gorge of Abkhazia during and after the Georgian-Russian war in August 2008. The majority of them have since returned to their homes, but close to 26,000 people are still unable to return, and will not be able to do so in the foreseeable future.

In 2007, the Georgian government began to devise and implement program to provide durable housing to those displaced with international assistance. However, many of those who fled their homes nearly two decades ago are still living in hospitals or military barracks that lack basic hygienic conditions and privacy. Some of the new settlements are located in rural areas lacking essential infrastructure.

Government assistance has yet to reach those who live with family members or in rented flats. Many complain that they have not been consulted about measures directly affecting their lives.

"All those displaced are still suffering from the consequences of war," said Duckworth. "Displaced people need durable solutions and they need them fast so that they can claim their lives back."

Displaced people suffer from high unemployment, and there are still no comprehensive government programs targeting this issue. Poor living conditions and poverty undermine the health of displaced people while the lack of information and the costs for medical treatment make it even more difficult for them to get health care.

"The Georgian government has taken important steps, but housing solutions have to go hand in hand with health care, employment and livelihoods opportunities," said Duckworth. "This is the only way to fully integrate the tens of thousands of its citizens still living in limbo."

As Iza, displaced woman in a collective center in Kutaisi, told Amnesty International:

"Seventeen years ago, when the war broke out, I was a student of foreign languages at the state university, but never finished. Now my son is in high school, but I do not have any means to afford his university education. I cannot rebuild my future anymore, maybe I no longer have the prospects of ever finding employment, but I ask the government to at least give more prospects to my children so they have a better future."