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In May 1993, UNHCR started providing emergency humanitarian assistance to IDPs who had fled armed conflict in Abkhazia in 1992-93, and the following year the Office was formally designated as lead agency for IDP return (Quadripartite Agreement on the Voluntary Return of Refugees and Displaced Persons, Moscow, 4 April 1994).
Then in 1997, UNHCR extended its programme to IDPs who remained displaced from 1991-92 secessionist conflict in South Ossetia.
UNHCR’s humanitarian work with refugees from Chechnya, Russian Federation dates back to 1999 when some 9,000 Chechens fled secessionist conflict between Chechnya and the Russian Federation and arrived in Pankisi Valley, east Georgia.
Up to mid-2008, UNHCR’s work encompassed nearly 1,000 remaining refugees from Chechnya, Russian Federation; about 220,000 IDPs from earlier conflicts in 1992-93 over the breakaway regions of Abkhazia, and the former Autonomous Oblast of South Ossetia; 10,000 IDPs internally displaced within South Ossetia; 45,000 IDPs who returned or are in the process of returning to Gali region, Abkhazia,; some 1,500 stateless persons; and about 20-30 asylum seekers from different countries who arrive in Georgia each year seeking assistance. Since the five-day war in August 2008, which temporarily displaced 138,000 individuals until October - November when around 75% returned home following the partial withdrawal of Russian troops, there are now some 30,000 newly displaced people still in need of protection and humanitarian assistance.
Following UNHCR policy to operate as much as possible at points of delivery, UNHCR Georgia comprises a Country Office in Tbilisi with five Field Offices and two Field Units (one in Tskhinvali, South Ossetia temporarily closed due to lack of humanitarian access). This strong field presence guarantees close monitoring of the protection situation and operations: FO Akhmeta deals with Chechen refugees in Pankisi Valley and a small number of IDPs resettled in eastern Georgia; FO Gori (established August 2008) handles IDP protection issues and programme monitoring in Shida Kartli region. FO Kutaisi (also established August 2008) addresses local integration of IDPs in the area who have been in a protracted displacement since early '90s; FO Zugdidi and FO Gali, which form one team but have to be located in two places because local staff of ethnic Georgian origin cannot enter Abkhazia (FO Gali), cover half the population of concern and deal with local integration of IDPs in western Georgia and IDPs returning to Abkhazia, and FO Sukhumi liaises with the de facto authorities in Abkhazia
Together with the Government of Georgia, especially UNHCR’s counterparts, the Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation (MRA) and Civil Registry Agency (CRA) within the Ministry of Justice, and its national and international implementing partners, UNHCR Georgia runs three multi-sectoral programmes which address the needs of refugees and asylum seekers, stateless people, IDPs, and IDP returnees to Abkhazia. UNHCR’s overarching objective focuses on protection with local integration being the most viable durable solution for everyone, except for returned and returning IDPs in Abkhazia and South Ossetia where a reintegration strategy is being followed.
For both IDP and returnees, programmes are designed to help improve their living conditions through the provision of counseling and legal assistance, including tailor-made assistance; improving the capacity of the Government to provide humanitarian assistance and protection; and facilitating the reintegration of IDPs / returnees into Georgian society by strengthening their capacity to become self-reliant through vocational training and income generating activities and, where necessary, with psychological rehabilitation. Shelter and the socio-economic integration of IDPs remains the greatest challenge, as it has done for the last 16 years. UNHCR’s strategy is to develop model projects demonstrating to the Government (which until recently had been almost exclusively focused on shelter) and the international community that only a “Shelter plus” approach can lead to the successful integration of destitute IDPs, i.e. rehabilitating Collective Centres and introducing income generating projects aimed at promoting sustainable self-sufficiency among IDPs living in those centres. It is anticipated that this approach and UNHCR’s advocacy for full implementation of the IDP National Strategy and Action Plan (developed with UNHCR assistance), will lead to a change in the Government’s policy towards IDPs.
A similar “Shelter plus” strategy is being implemented for returned and returning IDPs to Abkhazia and South Ossetia (if humanitarian access is reestablished in the latter region).
Protection and assistance to Refugees – USD 1,011,253
Protection and Assistance to IDPS and returnees in Georgia and Abkhazia – USD 1,164,550
Global Needs Assessment – USD 28,800,244
Flash Appeal – USD 30,000,000
States have primary responsibility for providing protection to refugees, stateless persons, and other displaced population under their jurisdiction, but too often their presence can burden local infrastructure, environment and resources, and severely test the limits of capacity and hospitality. This can lead to refugees and asylum-seekers being portrayed as a burden, a cause for social and economic instability, or even a threat to national security. Over the past decade, UNHCR has been involved in activities designed to strengthening national authorities and their laws / policies to facilitate the correct handling of refugee and asylum issues, reception and care of refugees, promotion of self-reliance of refugees and a realization of durable solutions. The activities are designed to complement host country initiatives, bringing in regional and international partners in a spirit of solidarity and participatory burden-sharing. Technical assistance programmes are important in this context, and can take many forms such as aid in registering refugees and asylum-seekers. The focus is on skills development and system-building initiatives, so that protection structures are sustainable and eventually become financially and operationally independent.
In 2007, UNHCR implemented an EU-funded Strengthening Protection Capacity Programme in Georgia. Then in 2008, it was decided to 'piggy-back' on this programme's rigorous methodology to carry out a Global Needs Assessment (GNA) to map out unmet needs of refugees, IDPs, returnees, asylum seekers and stateless people (a pilot project that was undertaken simultaneously in seven other countries world-wide). Results world-wide showed a clear need to improve and ensure access to asylum systems with better reception facilities and procedures, registration, documentation and border monitoring. Training and technical support were also needed to increase the capacity of governments to adequate respond to people of concern. Women and children required better protection with improved prevention against and response measures for sexual abuse and violence, as well as strengthened child protection programmes. In Georgia, this Global Needs Assessment indicated that nearly 30m USD are needed to address gaps in providing protection and humanitarian assistance.
The conclusions of the SPCP also fed into the Georgia Joint Needs Assessment, which UNHCR conducted in partnership with other sister agencies in the UN Country Team, World Bank, European Commission experts and the Government in September-October 2008, developing a document detailing a three-year strategy for integrating all IDPs.
Towards Self-Reliance: Helping People Regain Control over their Future, UNHCR Tbilisi, December 2010
Community-based Approach: Mobilizing Communities to Help Each Other, UNHCR Tbilisi, November 2010
Head of Agency:
Ms. Simone Wolken, UNHCR Representative
Ms. Liene Veide
2a Kazbegi Avenue, 0160 Tbilisi, Georgia
Tel.: +995 32 2386202
Fax: +995 32 2385422