On January 16, 52-year-old Zurab Chichoshvili, an Internally Displaced Person from Abkhazia living in the building of old sanatorium Kartli in Zgvisubani settlement, Tbilisi, committed suicide, jumping out of the building in protest at being forced to live in such conditions. The Ministry of IDPs, Labor, Health, and Social Affairs says the IDPs living in the former sanatorium will receive new living spaces in 2022.
IDPs living in the sanatorium have been protesting living in unbearable conditions for a long time, asking for an alternative location, as the building is in a state of disrepair and living there is dangerous.
The Ministry of Health responded to the tragedy by noting: “the decision of the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia, that IDPs living in the former sanatorium Kartli will receive new housing unconditionally in 2022.”
Public Defender of Georgia, Nino Lomjaria, released a statement noting “based on legislation, long-term resettlement of IDPs relies on a scoring system based on certain criteria. Exceptions to this rule are the buildings that are proved to be ruining by an expert report, which makes the resettlement of IDPs possible without points system, as a priority. Despite this provision, it is unfortunate that many internally displaced families still have to live in such conditions. According to the latest data available to us, there are up to 90 facilities threatening life and health in the country. It should also be noted that the Agency for Refugees, Eco-Migrants and Livelihoods does not check the sustainability of buildings on its own initiative, which is why their number may be even higher.
In recent years, the Public Defender had examined the rights situation of IDPs living in the former sanatorium building Kartli and found that the Agency for Refugees, Eco-Migrants and Livelihoods unreasonably refused to check the technical sustainability of the building (to conduct a relevant inspection). As a result, on December 21, 2020, the Public Defender addressed the Agency with a recommendation and requested a technical sustainability inspection of the building. The expert opinion confirmed the existence of an environment that poses an increased risk to life and health.
According to our information, at this stage, the IDPs living in the Kartli building have received an administrative promise to be provided with long-term housing as soon as possible. Recently, part of the ceiling in the building entrance collapsed, which worsened the situation and pushed the IDPs to hold protests to demand the immediate provision of long-term housing. They connect this circumstance with the suicide of the IDP.
According to the Agency, IDPs were offered several housing options: temporary rent (provided by the local government), purchase of a house selected by an IDP (1 m2 of living space in the capital is equivalent to $550 in national currency, while the apartment area is determined according to the number of family members), or waiting for completion of the construction of apartments purchased by the State. The IDPs did not accept the offers, expressing distrust of the alternative of providing rent before long-term resettlement. In particular, they fear that the rental provision will be terminated after a certain period.
Due to the current situation, the Public Defender of Georgia calls on the Agency for Refugees, Eco-Migrants and Livelihoods to provide IDPs living in the former sanatorium building Kartli with individual information about the offers and the specific deadlines for their implementation, as well as to use all the levers at its disposal to resettle IDPs from the damaged facilities containing an increased risk to life and health as soon as possible, and in order to increase the IDPs’ confidence in the process, in case they choose to rent, to issue an administrative promise to provide them with rent before the provision of long-term housing.
At the same time, the Public Defender of Georgia once again calls on the Agency for IDPs, Eco-Migrants and Livelihoods to prioritize the resettlement of IDPs living in the demolishing facilities in order to avoid dire consequences.”