Government Builds Residences for IDPs from Abkhazia

The Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia is continuing to provide residences for socially vulnerable people from Abkhazia. The Ministry is about to finish construction of apartments in Zugdidi - near Abkhazia - that will satisfy some 150 families. The project is financially supported by the Ministry itself.

Manuchar Chilachava, the IDP Ministry representative in Samegrelo Zemo-Svaneti region (Western Georgia) told GEORGIA TODAY that all IDPs are eligible to apply for a residence if they meet certain set criteria. The main focus for the Ministry seems to be on those most socially vulnerable, war veterans and their families, citizens with disabilities, as well as large families.

The Ministry is committed to completing construction of the Zugdidi accommodation by November 2016. Chilachava recalls last year when his Office and the Ministry built over 320 apartments for IDPs. It is projected that within the next few years, almost all IDPs will have their own residences.

In an interview with GEORGIA TODAY last year, the IDP Minister Sozar Subari explained the priorities of his Office, the key aspect of which is to be human-oriented, meaning giving more freedom to IDPs living legally or illegally in different spots throughout the country. “There were no instances of forcibly removing IDPs from their temporary shelters, e.g. to places with no infrastructure and other facilities. What I personally have changed is my attempt to make the system flexible and transparent, including developing and activating diverse programs for IDPs,” Minister Subari explained.

Subari also underscored his Ministry’s budget which tripled in the past three years. He said that it allows the Georgian Dream, the party of his membership, to implement much needed projects. Notably, the current government has clearly advertised that they are focused more on social aspects of Georgian society - such as health protection - than on other infrastructural projects, as the ex-government was.

Being aware of the extreme difficulties experienced by many citizens in the country, the government believes that providing the adequate reaction to something that can be fatal for future generations is of utmost importance. “Restoring Georgia’s territorial integrity is irreversible, as the events in the world develop in a quick manner. We need to be prepared in many respects. I believe the IDPs who receive apartments from the government will definitely remain the same in their mentality and aspire towards a unification process,” Minister Subari said.

Notably, last year, when the apartments were distributed in Zugdidi, there were accusations that some people who received apartments should not have while thousands others were left in need.

Minister Subari told GEORGIA TODAY that in response to those allegations they had made the process transparent and opened a hotline and other means of direct communication with the Ministry to avoid misunderstandings. The Minister said the United National Movement sent several leaders to organize protest actions in Zugdidi. “However, we tried our best to be just and provide for the neediest people. There might have been some failures in the process and single personalities could have taken bribes, though, we have opened various means of communication with the citizens to get information in a direct way.”

Interestingly, Subari’s Ministry strongly suggested a proposal to take an additional loan, whether domestic or foreign, to provide all IDPs with housing. This was projected to be one of the best solutions in terms of future economic and social growth. However, the Georgian Constitution does not allow a loan received from foreign financial institutions. to be increased. “My project needs over one billion Lari, which will make it much easier for the country in a long-term view. As it stands, we will continue our efforts to ease difficulties among the IDPs as much as possible,” Minister Subari concluded.

Over the last 22 years, the problems of Internally Displaced Persons in Georgia have been one of the most painful issues for the country. The Russian occupation of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region (formerly South Ossetia) and subsequently the Russo-Georgian war in 2008, led to the mass displacement of over half a million people from their own homes.

Russia and Georgia have fought a grave war for Abkhazia which has been a sovereign part of Georgia for centuries. After the Russo-Georgian war of 2008, Russia recognized Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region as independent states. The recognition seriously hinders the process of peaceful settlement of the conflicts. The international community strongly supports the notion that Abkhazia, as well as South Ossetia, are inseparable parts of Georgia.

Zviad Adzinbaia

31 March 2016 21:02