Ossetian war refugees left behind by Georgian government
The bloody conflict in South Ossetia left thousands of people displaced. Native Georgians who fled the republic for Georgia in the hope that the government would help them start a new life now say they feel let down.
When war ends, some wounds heal faster than others.
Thousands of Georgians were forced to flee their homes, leaving everything behind to escape the shelling and explosions in their native towns and villages in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Even though they ran away from war, they still cannot find solace in peace.
“Our president’s head is in the clouds,” Ketevan Kardava said. “He has no idea how the refugees live. We are supposed to get new homes by 2011, but they are just promises, and we do not believe anything will be done.”
Some of the refugees were forced to flee two years ago during the South Ossetian war. Others have been in Tbilisi since the early 1990s, which saw the first outbreak of violence between Georgia and its then breakaway regions.
Several months ago a number of Georgians displaced by the 2008 conflict, who had been living in a dilapidated building, were told they had to move out.
“They have many buildings in Tbilisi and its suburbs where we could live, and from where we could get to work. But they don’t want to use them. They think refugees must not live in Tbilisi,” said Olga Jgerenaia.
Olga is a 44-year-old sales assistant, who survives on a salary of $90 a month. Her son has cerebral palsy and receives $50 a month from the government. When Olga talks about having to move, she seems on the verge of an emotional breakdown.
“I am not going anywhere,” Olga said. “Even if they forcibly evict me, I am not going anywhere. I am going to go on a hunger strike if that’s what it takes. I’m not going anywhere, certainly not to the regions.”
A recent report by Amnesty International revealed that six per cent of the current Georgian population is displaced, which equates to some 240,000 people. Although some have already been moved into new housing, the organization says the government is still not doing enough to help.
“They have made efforts, and like we said, they were good efforts, but we believe the Georgian government must do more in order to accommodate these displaced people and not just give them a roof over their heads, but accommodate other greater needs,” said Nicola Duckworth, Director of Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia secretariat.
However, it seems for now that the refugees have little hope that their needs will indeed be addressed.
“I lost my house. I lost my homeland. I lost everything,” Olga said. “Now, I am being kicked out of here and being made a refugee for the second time. I am not concerned just with myself. I am speaking for everyone who lives here.”