09TBILISI512, GEORGIA: IDPS: NEW AND OLD THEMES

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI512 2009-03-17 14:05 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO1677
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0512/01 0761405
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 171405Z MAR 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1196
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 4805

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 TBILISI 000512 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/CARC, EUR/ACE, PRM 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/17/2019 
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KIRF RR GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: IDPS: NEW AND OLD THEMES 
 
REF: A. TBILISI 408 
     B. TBILISI 407 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN TEFFT FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1.  (C)  Summary:  Recent trips to the west Georgian cities 
of Kutaisi and Zugdidi reinforce the impression that many of 
the problems for IDPs from the 1990's remain unaddressed, and 
the GoG's plan to target their needs directly has not yet 
yielded visible results.  While the GoG has been criticized 
for building homes for new IDPs from the August 2008 conflict 
too hastily, a recent visit to one such settlement Tserovani 
revealed that some of the earlier logistical problems are 
being addressed.  The continuing challenges for the Ministry 
of Refugees and Accommodation are dealing with the thousands 
of requests for assistance from individual IDPs and 
disseminating information to them systematically so people 
can make smart choices for themselves and their families. 
The Minister of Refugees and Accommodation works hard but not 
efficiently--as does the Ministry itself.  From the 
standpoint of the donor community, many of the decisions 
which affect privatization of collective centers are being 
made at senior levels of government and are not shared in a 
streamlined way to de-conflict with donor plans.  Improved 
communication is especially important because, even with the 
best of intentions, it will be some time before the 
government can respond to all IDPs' needs.  Although 
opposition political parties are represented in the region, 
as of yet none of them are working yet on a regional level in 
a way that would allow them to address IDP social issues. 
End summary. 
 
NEW SOLUTIONS FOR "OLD" IDPs 
 
2.  (C)  On February 25, Prime Minister Gilauri and Minister 
for Refugees and Accommodations (MRA) Subeliani, along with 
other GoG officials, briefed the international donor 
community on their plans for durable housing solutions for 
"old IDPs" or those who had been displaced during the 
1989-1992 period.  According to MRA information, 43 percent 
of IDPs are accommodated in 1600 collective centers, and 57 
percent have found shelter individually, some staying with 
family or friends.   Most of these IDPs reside in Tbilisi (45 
percent), Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti (28 percent), and Imereti 
(13 percent).  The plan for the integration of old IDPs is 
that those residing in collective centers (which are either 
owned by GoG or private entities) will be offered private 
ownership, although the GoG would have to buy the private 
properties first.  For those buildings which cannot be 
refurbished or for families needing additional space, some 
new buildings may be required.  The first step in this 
concept envisages rehabilitation and transferring property to 
IDPs for the symbolic price of 1 GEL.  The plan is that IDPs 
will sign contracts, transferring ownership to them, and all 
property owners will then be entered into the Public Registry 
data base.  The government will pay for all associated fees. 
GOG envisages that 138 million GEL will be allocated for this 
in 2009, but it will cost overall 700-800 million USD to 
realize the total project.  (Embassy note:  The 138 million 
GEL is a direct contribution from the EC to support 
Government efforts to provide durable resettlement options 
for the "old" IDPs.  End note.) 
 
3.   (C)  So far MRA has not shared this information with 
IDPs in written form, nor widely briefed them on the latest 
government plans.  In a March 5 meeting with Subeliani, Matt 
Johnson, PRM Europe Program Officer, and Lisa Kierans, 
Moscow-based Regional Refugee coordinator, urged the Minister 
QMoscow-based Regional Refugee coordinator, urged the Minister 
to effectively disseminate written information to IDPs to 
clarify MRA policy and explains the IDPs' options.  According 
to documents disseminated at the February 25 brief, the 
process of rehabilitation will be managed by the Ministry of 
Finance and MRA.  In remarks at a March 8 roundtable held in 
honor of International Women's Day, Subeliani outlined the 
durable housing solutions for old IDPs but included 
information that was not in the earlier brief, such as 
compensation for IDPs who had bought their own accommodation 
in the last 15 years.  Subeliani also said that clarification 
is needed to define who is an "old IDP."  Ostensibly, IDPs 
born in Tbilisi to old caseload IDPs, or those who moved to 
Tbilisi more than 15 years ago from Sukhumi, should not be 
counted in overall old caseload IDP figures.  He used himself 
as an example, saying that although his family was from 
Sukhumi, that they had moved to Tbilisi when he was very 
young and he had lived in the capital most of is life.  Thus, 
by his own account, he is not an old IDP. 
 
NEW IDP SETTLEMENTS 
------------------- 
 
 
TBILISI 00000512  002 OF 005 
 
 
4.  (U)  On March 8 the IDP Women's Group CONSENT led by 
Chairperson Julia Kharashvili and Minister Subeliani 
co-hosted a gathering to discuss problems of new and old IDPs 
alike.
 Women from the new IDP settlements outlined their 
main concerns as lack of potable water, hygiene (related to 
problems with lack of or insufficient plumbing, showers and 
toilets), income generation, psychological counseling, lack 
of transport, and insufficient school books for their 
children.  Perhaps the most notable deficiency was the lack 
of a mechanism of contacting the requisite MRA official to 
resolve issues without having to go straight to the top to 
contact the minister himself.  On March 9, Poloffs traveled 
to the new IDP settlement of Tserovani, just outside of 
Tbilisi, which has received criticism for shoddy workmanship. 
 Poloffs talked with three local Georgian contractors who 
were supervising the construction of a kindergarten, 
secondary school and municipal government buildings next to 
the housing complex.  One of these contractors employs 32 
IDPs from the surrounding area.  Poloffs also saw bread being 
delivered to kiosks, several small shops selling foodstuffs, 
and residents queuing for a marshrutka minibus which now 
stops in the villages.  Next to several homes bloomed flowers 
which were recently planted, and more than a half-dozen TV 
satellite dishes now adorn the roofs of some of the homes.  A 
garbage truck, bearing a USAID sticker, was picking up 
garbage; the driver told Emboff they do so twice a week. 
Poloff also noted a recently installed underground drainage 
system which ran between the houses, presumably to assist 
with the issue of standing water. 
 
5.  (C)  On March 8, Emboff talked with Guy Mooney from the 
USAID FORECAST project. Mooney leads a USAID-funded project 
to examine the interworkings of the MRA, noting where 
improvements in communication can be made.  Mooney agreed 
that Subeliani is very dedicated and hardworking, but needs 
learn to delegate.  Mooney tested the MRA hotline numbers to 
gauge responsiveness to incoming calls.  He tried for three 
days to get through and ultimately got a recording. 
Subeliani takes many calls personally,  with the end result 
that he is frantically busy and the exterior of his building 
and corridors are jammed with IDPs waiting to be heard. 
There currently doesn't appear to be an established regional 
hierarchy to which concerns can be directed.  Additionally, 
there is friction between MRA and the Civil Registry over 
registering IDPs.  (Comment:  UNHCR in separate meetings 
mentioned this to Poloff as well.  End comment.)  Although 
the Civil Registry has streamlined other administrative 
practices to make them more efficient, there is resistance 
from MRA, which wants to create its own separate data base. 
 
ZUGDIDI IDPS 
------------ 
 
6.  (C)  Zugdidi, only a dozen kilometers away from the 
Abkhazia administrative boundary line, in previous visits 
looked quite deserted and dismal.  However, the first thing 
that meets the eye today is much livelier streets, busy 
traffic, and the hallmark of a present-day Georgian town, a 
fountain which gurgles in sync to a musical soundtrack which 
began operating last year.  Zugdidi is said to host a 
population 50,000 IDPs living in rundown collective centers. 
One chronic problem has been poor communication flow between 
the government and IDPs regarding GoG plans for future IDP 
disposition.  On February 26, the Deputy Governor, Alexander 
Akhvlediani told Emboff that councils made up of IDPs had 
QAkhvlediani told Emboff that councils made up of IDPs had 
been established in collective centers through which 
information is now disseminated.  This ensured better 
information flow, and also encouraged buy-in from residents. 
Akhvlediani said that he encouraged IDPs to participate in 
determining solutions; his plan was that IDPs would be 
involved every step of the way to the point when their 
apartments were totally refurbished.  Then, IDPs would sign a 
document indicating that the living space met their 
expectations. 
 
7.  (C)  Akhvlediani told Emboff that over 22 million GEL 
will be dedicated by fall this year to the region to 
refurbish collective centers.  According to Akhvlediani, 
there are design projects in the works, and tenders will be 
announced soon.  The local government is considering 
repairing some abandoned buildings that were left by Russians 
who had previously worked at the Enguri Dam for IDP use. 
Most IDPs hope for eventual repatriation, but right now 
people are focused on more immediate problems like finding a 
job.  Akhvlediani was hopeful that public work projects, 
including improvement of roads, and upgrades to the water 
supply system, would provide locals with employment 
opportunities.   As to the rumors of a Russian spring 
offensive (reftel A), Akhvlediani said that locals were 
frightened by this prospect--understandably so, with Russian 
 
TBILISI 00000512  003.2 OF 005 
 
 
forces not that far away.  In parting he told Emboff, "The 
role of the soldier is still not finished in this region." 
 
8.  (C)  In a February 27 meeting, Marina Davitaia, NGO 
Samegrelo-Medea, outlined concerns of IDPs to poloff based on 
the results of some canvassing data from a project she is 
working on for Conciliation Resources, a British NGO.  Her 
NGO is canvassing one IDP compact settlement, which includes 
three blocks of buildings, or 56 families (300 people.)  Her 
task is to outline who is living in the apartments and how 
many reside there full-time.  She also will examine their 
relationship with GoG municipal officials and intermediate 
between IDPs and the government to inform IDPs of their 
rights and how to use government structures. 
 
9.  (C)  Davitaia said that out of the 300 IDPS she 
interviewed, only two percent of them were employed, and only 
one (a teacher) is working in her given profession.  She had 
not heard of the public service works mentioned by 
Akhvlediani, and was not aware of any IDP council in her 
settlement.  According to Davitaia, IDPs were very afraid of 
further destabilization and have grown despondent over the 
soaring prices of bribes to cross the Enguri bridge into 
Abkhazia.  To IDPs, the memories of 1993 and 1998 were still 
fresh in their minds, and August was like "an open sore." 
Many feel now that they will never return to Abkhazia.  When 
fighting erupted in August, only the very poor who could not 
leave remained in Zugdidi, which became a virtual ghost town. 
 
10.  (C)  Davitaia said her most worrying concern now is 
young people who are not completing their education.  Their 
parents can no longer afford to pay a portion of their 
university fees that scholarships do not cover, and so many 
are leaving for Turkey and other places, some illegally, to 
find employment.  As for forced passportization, she said the 
reality is that as many as 50 percent of Georgians in Gali 
already have a Russian passport, and eventually all will take 
one.  This is not due to force, but the reality that they 
cannot get paid or take care of many administrative tasks 
without it.  (Comment:  Poloff asked for clarification of t
he 
passport as to whether it was Abkhaz or Russian.  Davitaia 
made no distinction between the two.  Other sources suggest 
50 percent is a considerable exaggeration.) 
 
POLITICS AND IDPS 
----------------- 
 
11.  (C)  Poloff met with representatives from Democratic 
Movement United Georgia, Christian Democrat Movement (CDM), 
and We Ourselves opposition political parties in Zugdidi. 
Conversations with them indicated that local party 
representatives are not remunerated, only work a fraction of 
their business day on party business, and do not work 
together to tackle IDP problems.  Most do not have full time 
offices.  CDM rep, Temur Toloraia, however, did tell poloff 
that they were waiting for the local municipality to sort out 
the issue of office space; because CDM had cleared the 
threshold in the last election, the party is entitled to an 
office in government space.  As Murman Malazonia, We 
Ourselves party told emboff, it is hard for opposition party 
members to get locals to sign on with opposition parties, 
given that the Abkhaz-government-in-exile has an active 
presence in Zugdidi.  Malazonia said the 
government-in-exile's job is to remind IDPs what the 
government has done for them, especially during the voting 
period.  According to Malazonia, he who controls the jobs, 
also controls the votes. 
Qalso controls the votes. 
 
12.  (C)  Representatives of Nino Burjanadze's party 
Democratic Movement for United Georgia thought that locals 
were interested in new elections.  Neither CDM nor We 
Ourselves seemed to think this was the case.  As Marina 
Davitaia told us, most IDPs are not likely to vote for 
Burjanadze given her past remarks, and when opposition party 
representatives have visited collective centers before, they 
were often met with a hostility.  (Comment:  Davitaia was 
referring to an incident that occurred when IDPs were forced 
out collective centers which were privatized several years 
ago when Burjandaze was then Prime Minister.  At that time, 
IDPs were reported to have said, "If we are treated like 
this, we will leave and go back to Abkhazia and live with the 
de factos."  Burjanadze in turn reportedly called them all 
traitors.  End Comment.) The consensus at least from CDM and 
We Ourselves was that the IDPs were bitterly disappointed 
with the results of the August conflict and Russian 
recognition of Abkhazia, but were not so upset that they 
planned to call for new elections.  Regarding Alasania, 
Marina Davitaia said that some local residents had a positive 
impression of Alasania from his previous work there as the 
Georgian government representative for Abkhazia in exile, but 
 
TBILISI 00000512  004 OF 005 
 
 
the vast majority do not know him very well. 
 
HUMAN RIGHTS IN GALI 
-------------------- 
 
13.  (C)  In a February 27 meeting, Rezo Bendeliani, of the 
NGO Mixed Families, told Emboff that although Enguri crossing 
are expensive and sometimes dangerous, people with family 
members remaining in Abkhazia still cross.  Some of them do 
so at unofficial check points, and some hire guides who know 
where the crossing is easiest.  Bendeliani maintains that 
even if the GoG and the Abkhaz de facto authorities may not 
be ready to settle some issues, ordinary people still need 
contact with their families.  He regularly calls and speaks 
to his family in Sukhumi.  Bendeliani discounted the accuracy 
of Georgian television reports about the human rights 
situation in Gali.  He characterized the reports as 
sensationalist.  During poloff's visit, there were widespread 
reports of Georgians being forcibly thrown out of their 
homes.  Bendeliani said that the practice of drafting 
Georgians to serve in the Abkhaz militia continued, but no de 
facto authorities were forcibly evicting Georgians from their 
homes -- he ascribed this to media hype.  (Note:  In this 
case, however the reports were true.  See reftel B.) 
 
14.  (C)  Bendeliani had heard that some Abkhaz had returned 
from Turkey to live in Abkhazia. In the scope of things, 
however these represented a few isolated cases of individuals 
being brought back by their families.  Integration for 
returnees was difficult, due to language and cultural 
differences, and there were in fact few integrated families. 
He said that the Russians do not want to see Abkhaz move in 
from Turkey, and that the strain between Russians and Abkhaz 
was growing more tense.  He predicted that that soon more 
visible cracks in the relationship would show, as both sides 
realize the untenable situation they had created. 
 
GEORGIAN CHURCH IN ZUGDIDI 
-------------------------- 
 
15.  (C)  Poloff met with Father Malkhaz Chanturia, Georgian 
Orthodox Church, at Kotskheli Nunnery to ask about the 
religious freedom of Georgians in Gali.  In an earlier 
meeting with Metropolitan Daniel from Sukhumi, Metropolitan 
Daniel told emboff that GOC priests had difficulty traveling 
to Gali, and thus Georgians traveled to Zugdidi for their 
spiritual guidance.  Chanturia estimates that up to one third 
of his congregation on ecclesiastical holidays and Sundays 
are from Gali.  Chanturia said there was a GOC priest in Gali 
conducting services until last year, when local authorities 
showed up, demanded that he pack his things, and promptly 
escorted him across the administrative boundary line.  After 
the GOC priest left, an Abkhaz priest led the services, but 
now he too has been recalled to Sukhumi by the de facto 
Bishop of Abkhazia, Besarion.  Chanturia has heard 
unofficially that Georgian icons from the Ilori church, near 
Gali, have been replaced with Russian icons. 
 
16.  (C)  Chanturia characterized priests serving in Abkhazia 
as Russian Orthodox priests who don't necessarily agree with 
ROC teachings, and so Abkhazia is a good posting for those 
wishing to escape the ROC yoke.  Chanturia characterized the 
major issues affecting his congregants, besides security 
issues, as poor health and unemployment.  The GOC there does 
work with Oxfam and Doctors without Borders to reach those in 
most need and connect them to currently available GoG 
services.  (Comment:  The recently passed GoG universal 
health insurance program is expected to address some of the 
current caps in basic health care, particularly for the most 
Qcurrent caps in basic health care, particularly for the most 
vulnerable. End Comment.)  During the August conflict, he 
said that he and his fellow clergy had remained within the 
region, praying for a peaceful resolution. 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
17. (C)  Poloff had the opportunity on several occasions to 
meet Subeliani over the course of two weeks.  He was engaged, 
and respected by the IDP community as someone who is 
dedicated to their issues.  Poloff heard the presentation on 
solutions to the old IDP solutions three times: twice from 
Subeliani and once from the Governor of Imereti, each time 
with a different twist.  The d
anger of not giving the 
government plan to IDPs in written form is that every time 
the presentation is delivered, additional tidbits are added 
and expectations may be inflated.  As Marina Davitaia said, 
there are three ways to get info out to IDPs:  TV, NGOs, and 
gossip.  The challenge is to get the uniform message out to 
all IDPs and to create a mechanism so that information flows 
freely.  FORECAST will be working with MRA on these very 
 
TBILISI 00000512  005 OF 005 
 
 
issues. 
TEFFT

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