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IDPs’ Relocation Begins from Kartli Sanatorium

The Internally Displaces Persons, Ecomigrants, and Livelihood Agency announced late on January 27 that nine internally-displaced families living in former Sanatorium “Kartli” in Tbilisi outskirts have received new housing. Seven other households preferred to find apartments themselves, costs of which will be covered by the government, the Agency said.

According to the Agency, this marks the beginning of a relocation process from the run-down sanatorium, supposed to conclude through 2022.

The development comes after 52-year-old Zurab Chichoshvili, exiled from Abkhazia after the armed conflict, jumped to his death from the former sanatorium, allegedly in hopes that his passing would help speed up the relocation of some 130 families.

The IDP Agency’s Terms

Currently, the Agency and the Ministry of IDPs from the Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs under which it operates, are offering the IDPs to either cover the cost of purchasing housing up to USD 550 per square meter, or to pay their rents elsewhere if they wait for construction works to conclude in apartments already bought by the government.

The residents of the former sanatorium are concerned that the offered amount per square meter is not sufficient to buy housing in Tbilisi, as well as fear that their rent subsidies might be discontinued if they opt for temporarily renting housing but the construction government-commissioned apartments drags on.

They had demanded to raise the maximum price per square meter to USD 650 and for the authorities to issue guarantees that if the residents opted for temporarily renting, the assistance would not be cut off.

The latest data by the Georgian National Statistics Office’s (Geostat) shows USD 550 per square meter falls behind the median offer prices of both apartments and detached houses in all districts of Tbilisi.

Negotiations with the Ministry, IDP Agency

The Agency and Deputy Health Minister Ilia Gudushauri, as per the residents’ demand, held a meeting with the IDPs today, with the presence of their lawyers and a representative of the Public Defender’s Office.

Following the talks, Tamar Sautieva, one of the IDPs said in a Facebook post that the authorities do not have a detailed action plan for relocation, and are not aware of exact time frames for providing housing to the former sanatorium residents.

She noted the authorities refuse to raise the maximum price per square meter, but the government plans to work on setting total cost for procuring a house.

“For instance, if they were to pay me for buying USD 550 per 60 square meters [flat], they will pay [the same amount] in case of buying 50 square meters,” Sautieva explained.

Also according to Sautieva, the authorities backed down on was that the IDPs will be allowed to purchase flats in residential blocks that have yet to obtain certificate of occupancy.

Background

The internally displaced persons living in the Soviet-era Sanatorium have long demanded resettlement, but active protests sparked in December after a ceiling in one of the entrances of the Soviet-era former sanatorium collapsed.

Later in January, Chichoshvili’s suicide further called attention to the gravity of the IDPs living conditions. In the latest protest, the IDPs rallied in front of the Health Ministry building on January 26, after their request to involve lawyers in the talks between the families and the agency had been refused. 

The people who were internally displaced in the 1990s following armed conflicts in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia found temporary shelters in hotels, sanatoriums, kindergartens, schools, or hospitals, and some have had to remain there since.

There are currently about 270 thousand IDPs in Georgia, with some 240 thousand hailing from Abkhazia and up to 30 thousand from Tskhinvali Region.

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