08TBILISI589, INTERNATIONAL ROMA DAY–RESPONSE TO ACTION REQUEST

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI589 2008-04-10 14:24 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO8819
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHSI #0589/01 1011424
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 101424Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9244
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000589 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: APER PHUM KPAO GG
SUBJECT: INTERNATIONAL ROMA DAY--RESPONSE TO ACTION REQUEST 
 
REF: SECSTATE 29991 
 
1.  SUMMARY:  On April 8 the National Minorities Council of 
the Public Defender's Office hosted a roundtable in honor of 
International Roma Day.  Representatives from government 
ministries and NGOs discussed information contained in the 
2008 European Center for Minority Issue (ECMI) report which 
estimates about 1500 Roma living in Georgia.  Two members of 
the Roma community present at the roundtable recounted their 
personal difficulties in accessing health care, employment, 
education (estimates are that only 15% of Roma children 
attend school) and societal discrimination.  ECMI evaluates 
the situation for Roma has significantly deteriorated since 
the era of the Soviet Union, as before there was a strong 
mechanism in place to force Romani to fill out official 
documents of births, deaths, pensions, etc, but now the 
recipient himself must initiate the request for these 
documents.  Ministry of Justice officials present expressed 
their willingness to assist Roma in getting official 
documents, but stressed that Roma needed to officially apply. 
 Roma who still have outdated Soviet passports can get 
official documents, but those who were born after the 
dissolution of the Soviet Union face hardship as many were 
born at home without official documentation of their births. 
End Summary. 
 
 
Common Themes 
------------- 
 
2.  (U)  On April 8 Poloff attended a roundtable at the 
Public Defender's Office (PDO) where NGOs Human Rights and 
Information Center (HRIC), Child and the Environment and ECMI 
discussed the challenges facing Georgia's Roma population. 
ECMI's February 2008 report estimates the Roma population in 
Georgia as approximately 1500 people, with no one location 
holding a population of more than 300 people.  Roma are found 
principally in the five regions of Georgia:  Tbilisi 
(Samgori/Garabani/Leninovka); Kutaisi; Kobuleti (Adjara); 
Mukuzani/Telavi/Dedoplitskaro (Kakheti); and Sukhumi 
(Abkhazia).  In recent years, Roma have returned to Sukhumi. 
Although Romas in each area differ in providence 
(Tbilisi--Roma/Moldovan; Kakheti--Ukrainian; 
Kobuleti--Russian; Kutaisi--Kurd/Azeri) all share common 
experiences: 
 
-- Poor housing conditions, often without running water 
-- High unemployment, with women and children earning money 
from begging or selling small items 
-- Low official registration rate due to births at home which 
are not recorded 
-- Low literacy and low rates of enrollment in school for 
children.  Parents say that they cannot afford the books and 
materials to send their children to school, but others point 
out that Roma parents do not see the value in educating their 
children. 
-- Lack of self-organization.  Government officials point out 
that Roma shun interaction with them, but to improve their 
situation Roma must be more participatory determining their 
fate. 
 
Official Documents 
------------------ 
 
3.  (U) According to the ECMI 2008 report, the possession of 
documents by Roma largely depends on the age of the 
respondent.  For those born during the Soviet Union, the 
frequency of registered documents is extremely high as the 
USSR passed a series of measures to halt the nomadism of Roms 
across the Soviet Union.  From 1956-1961 local authorities 
arbitrarily stopped Roma where they encountered them, 
registered them, handed out documents, and also arranged for 
the distribution of permanent housing.  Many Roma in Georgia 
were put to work in both agricultural kolkhozes (collective 
farms) and factories.  Children were sent to school to 
receive primary education and families were incorporated into 
state health care facilities.  When the USSR collapsed, there 
was no longer strong enforcement of these policies and many 
Roma stopped filling out official documents of births, 
deaths, pensions, etc.  Added to this, Romani children are 
born at home, not in a hospital or state health care 
facility,  so extra steps are needed to acquire forms and pay 
for the registration process.  Internally displaced Roma are 
almost completely without documents as they were forced to 
flee the regions during the civil wars in 1992-93, leaving 
most possessions behind.  The impact of non-registration is 
significant:  without proper registration citizens of Georgia 
cannot receive pensions, attend health care facilities, or 
enroll children in school.  According to Civil Registry 
Agency (CRA) Officials at the roundtable, Roma who have out 
of date Soviet passports should face no difficulty in filing 
 
TBILISI 00000589  002 OF 002 
 
 
for and receiving Georgian documents.  For those who have no 
official documents (were born at home for example and the 
births were not recorded) this presents a dilemma.  CRA 
representatives said that they are willing to assist Roma in 
getting official documents, but Roma must officially apply, 
and few do.  CRA officials claim that Roma are simply not 
interested. 
 
Personal Stories 
---------------- 
 
4.  (U)  Two Roma w
ere present during the discussion and 
recounted their personal experiences.  One, a male 
approximately 20 years old and university student in Tbilisi 
studying in the Tourism faculty, told of his personal 
experience of discrimination and stereotyping. (Comment: The 
group asked him how many other Roma were studying at 
university and he said he only knew of one other in Moscow. 
End Comment.)  His family lived in Gatchiani far from schools 
and medical facilities. This isolation created problems with 
their integration.  The other representative, Babasia 
Denisenko, a 59 year old woman with nine children who lives 
in Dedoplitskaro said that she and her family are all legally 
registered and she herself is still working.  She had been 
unable to collect her pension, although she had inquired. 
She had taken a marshrutka (mini bus) in from her home two 
hours away to be at the PDO office.  She said that her family 
lived in a very small dwelling which was a mere four rooms 
for the entire extended family.  These two by virtue of their 
pursuit of education and formal jobs may not be indicative of 
the wider community here. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
5.  (SBU)  Poloff experienced difficulty finding NGOS who 
have links with the Roma community.  A representative from 
HRIC told Poloff that he has been trying to establish links 
with the Roma for some time, but the Roma were disinterested. 
 At the PDO, Poloff spoke personally with Denisenko and 
expressed willingness to meet and talk further in 
Dedoplitskaro.  Denisenko said she welcomed the idea, 
although  Roma as a rule are cautious of outsiders, some of 
whom in the past have promised monetary assistance which did 
not materialize. The NGO, Civic Integration Foundation (ICF) 
was the compiler of many of the interviews in the 2008 ECMI 
report and could be helpful in arranging future meetings. 
TEFFT

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