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IDP and Street Vendors stage more protests

By Salome Modebadze
Thursday, August 26
Georgian State Minister for Reintegration, Temur Iakobashvili continued his series of meetings at UN headquarters in New York on August 26. The meetings aim to secure the support of Tbilisi-sponsored UN General Assembly draft resolution reiterating the right of all internally displaced persons and refugees to return to Abkhazia and South Ossetia. “The issue of Georgian IDPs and refugees needs meetings with various diplomatic representatives from the UN. It is imperative to convince them of the importance of the issue of people who have been evicted from their homes, not only for Georgia but for the international community. It is important for us to show the UN the real content of the conflict between Georgia and the Russian Federation despite Russia’s attempts to somehow reverse the situation,” Iakobashvili told the Georgian media.

Meanwhile in Tbilisi IDPs and street vendors held a joint rally in front of the Tbilisi City Council on August 26. The street vendors want the Government to restore their right of civilised trade in the streets so that they can provide their families with the basic needs and living conditions. IDPs evicted from their previous apartments in Tbilisi protested over being settled in the regions and asked for shelter in any free building within the capital.

One of the organisers of the rally from the Conservative Party, Lasha Chkhartishvili said the newly established League of Street Vendors will try to make the Government of Georgia reinstate street trade. The League of Street Vendors established on August 24 has 15 board members and 5 members of revision commission who demand the restoration of street trade in an organised manner. The Chairman of the league will be elected in a couple of days. Another document concerning the rights of IDPs and shelter provision in Tbilisi was also given to the City Council on the same day. Chkhartishvili hoped that both documents would attract the attention of the authorities.

The protest rally supporting the IDPs and street vendors organised by the Conservative Party and the People’s Party ended with a two-hour demand for relevant living conditions in Tbilisi and the restoration of the organized trade in the streets of the capital. Lasha Chkhartishvili presented a bill regulating the street vendors’ rights to the City Council. “The draft law carries the detailed information about the norms regulating street vending in a civilised manner. After the Government of Georgia has ruined the lives of street vendors, leaving them hungry, I worked out a bill aimed at defending their rights,” Chkhartishvili told the media stressing the rallies will be held continuously until the Government tries their best to solve those people’s problems.

Viktor Dolidze, the Head of Health and Social Issues Committee from the opposition party - Our Georgia – Free Democrats told protestors that the City Council would start discussing the issue of street vendors and the IDPs at today’s session but the organisers said they will continue protesting until their demands are fully met. Joining the protest rally, Dolidze stressed both issues are important to him as the Chairman of the Committee. Eka Beselia, the leader of Solidarity to Illegal Prisoners told The Messenger that despite the fact that the Movement is not participating in organising the protest rally, the Movement's members fully support the decisions of the demonstrators.

The Leader of the Conservative Party, Kakha Kukava told The Messenger that so far there haven’t been any particular steps from the Government authorities in reaction to the protest rallies of the IDPs, refugees and street vendors. “If everything continues exactly this way and no attention will be paid to the people’s problems, we will appeal to Koba Subeliani, the Minister of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia for violating the rights of his citizens,” Kukava told us.

IDPs plan to establish the Civil Movement to settle their families in appropriate buildings within the capital and ensure jobs. Tamar Khidasheli, the Chair of Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) working on IDP and refugees' issues shared her concern with The Messenger.

“There are several categories of displaced people in our country such as the so-called “new” IDPs affected by the August War in 2008 and the older ones – evicted from Abkhazia. The first group of displaced people, placed in particular locations by the Ministry has been fairly demanding for compensation, while the second group - living in private apartments with a mortgage, has been waiting for at least temporary shelter in Tbilisi,” Khidasheli said adding that the Government has just been carrying out the state principles necessary for defining the IDPs and refugees rights. “It is really annoying that no one from the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia has given any official explanation for evicting those families from their shelters which is a great mistake from the Government to the people,” Khidasheli concluded addressing the internally displaced people to visit their office and share their problems with the lawyers.