Minister’s speech on the 66th session of the Executive Committee of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva
Mr. High Commissioner,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is an honor to address you in capacity of the member of the Executive Committee. This platform gives Georgia a privilege to draw attention to the fact, that despite existing challenges, Georgia continues its long-standing history of receiving refugees. The recent refugee crisis had an impact on the influx of asylum seekers in Georgia.
Some of these refugees are looking for asylum in Georgia, while for others, Georgia is a transit country before they reach their countries of destination.
In recent two years, Georgia has received up to 3 500 asylum seekers from Syria, Iraq, Ukraine and Afghanistan, out of whom more than 1100 were granted a status, regarding the rest, most of them left the country with the hope of receiving shelter in Europe.
As you are aware, we had received more than ten thousand Chechens from Russia at the end of 20th century.
Georgia is deeply concerned by the unprecedented large scaled displacement of people by conflicts. We firmly believe that only joint effort will be able to provide an adequate response to the existing problem. In this respect, Georgia has aligned itself with the EU Statement.
In the framework of the EU Visa Liberalisation process, several legislative changes were implemented using the recommendations of the European Commission and the ministry took notable measures for the integration of the refugee and humanitarian status holders.
Each one of them is provided with the full health insurance, monthly allowance and special programs, needed for receiving education in pre-school, as well as the secondary school levels and is helping them in housing issue.
Together with the UNHCR, Georgia is working on a new law on regulating the asylum system. The new law will include special procedures for the vulnerable groups and enable Georgian Asylum System to get closer to international standards.
Here, I would like to draw your attention to the problematic issues existing in Georgia. As a result of externally generated conflict in the beginning of nineties and the 2008 August war, hundreds of thousands of my countrymen became IDPs, constituting nearly 10 percent of the total population of Georgia.
Majority of them find themselves, as High Commissioner Guterres mentioned, in protracted emergency IDP situation – generations are born, while there is no actual progress in terms of the implementation of their fundamental right to return to their places of origin in safety and dignity.
Two regions of Georgia, namely Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions remain under the Russian military occupation. Serious human rights violations against the ethnic Georgians take place on daily basis. This includes, but is not limited to the restriction of freedom of movement, education in mother language and access to health care facilities and other social services on the Government controlled territory.
My Government is seriously concerned about the increasing tendency of illegal detentions for crossing the occupation line and serious obstacles imposed on the crossing regime. Severe restrictions on freedom of movement extend even to the most vulnerable population seeking an immediate medical assistance.
The situation has further deteriorated after the signing of the so-called integration treaties initiated by Moscow and illegal installation of barbwires along the occupation line and beyond.
Mr. High Commissioner,
Each one of displaced persons longs to return to their homes in the occupied territories. However, until we are able to facilitate their voluntary return in safety and dignity, their first necessity is accommodation. The Ministry launched multiple programs aimed at provision of Durable Housing Solutions to IDPs, up to forty thousand IDP families had received housing units into their private ownership.
At the same time, in addition to accommodation programs, the Ministry will provide livelihood opportunities and holistic solutions for the IDP needs.
This is the new approach of the Ministry, and the result is evident - According to the latest UNHCR survey, approximately sixty percent of IDPs feel fully integrated into society. The ministry continues its efforts to develop better strategies for their integration.
However, approximately 45 000 families still live in dire conditions and require immediate help.
Given that the resources of Georgia are quite limited, the support of the international donors is vital for the effective implementation of programs mentioned above. The support of the international community has been and still is crucial for Georgia.
Please allow me to express my sincerest gratitude to You, High Commissioner Guterres, for your immense support to our country. We are a also grateful for the UNHCR's dynamic involvement in Geneva International Discussions and activities of the UNHCR Regional Office.
We achieved notable success through the cooperation with UNHCR and I hope that we can continue this cooperation on other critical issues related to the displaced people in Georgia.