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Tbilisi City Hall puts the residents of Africa district on the verge of homelessness, dismantles illegally built houses

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Wednesday, December 16
Tbilisi Municipal Inspection has started dismantling 12 illegally constructed residential buildings in the Africa settlement in Tbilisi, which has led to a confrontation between the local population and law enforcers.

As a general inspection claims, the reason for the dismantling is building on the state-owned territory without the permission of construction. The people whose building is being dismantled say they have applied to the City Hall for legalization, but the inspection started the dismantling process without any warning before the end of the review.

The situation on the ground became tense several times. Residents of nearby buildings confronted the law enforcers. Police arrested 8 people during the confrontation. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, they were arrested on charges of petty hooliganism and disobeying a lawful request of the police.

Residents of Africa have been protesting against the dismantling of the buildings. According to them, most of the buildings' residents are socially vulnerable and their houses have been built without permission, and in some cases, the City Hall has decided to legalize it.

Regarding the Africa settlement, Mayor Kahkha Kaladze announced that no one lives in the houses that were dismantled:

“These are the people who have houses, these are the people who have lands, and so on. This is a deliberate seizure of land. I do not rule out that there may be some forces behind this that are benefiting from such decisions."

Kaladze assures that as long as he is in charge, he will in no way allow the misappropriation of state property. "And for those who do not have a home, there is a shelter, half of which is empty."

“We provide everything. The second option is that people who have a certain problem, are having their house demolished or so on, the boards will allocate money for them, we can rent these families houses so that they do not stay on the street,” he said.

The mayor emphasized that although the municipal inspectorate had warned the offenders several times, both verbally and in writing, unfortunately, there was no response to the warning.

"The principled position of the state is that land grabbing and illegal constructions should not be allowed and if such an action is carried out anywhere, it should be prevented," Kaladze said at a briefing yesterday.

Hereby, Kaladze emphasized the decision that 350 million will be the 2021 budget precisely in the direction of social and healthcare.

It was also noted that in recent years, citizens who have real estate in the regions, as well as some others in the name of others, have started illegal construction on state lands in Tbilisi.

"We have a reasonable suspicion that we are dealing with a fraudulent scheme backed by certain individuals who are pushing citizens to break the law in order to obtain economic benefits," the mayor said.

According to Kaladze, Tbilisi City Hall will provide all the materials to the relevant agency to start the investigation of the case.

Public Defender of Georgia Nino Lomjaria responded to the dismantling of a residential building in the African settlement of Samgori district.

As Lomjaria noted in her Facebook post, the demolition of the house is related to the risks of homelessness, which raises the need for the state to assess the method. If necessary, they should take supportive measures and provide appropriate shelter. She spoke of the challenges that shelters are facing and emphasized that the implementation of dismantling measures during the winter period poses risks of inhuman and degrading treatment. “The dangers posed by the pandemic are an additional issue. Based on the above, I call on the Tbilisi City Hall to make an official statement, which will provide comprehensive information on what measures have been taken and will be taken to protect the homeless families whose homes have been dismantled.”

As for the legality of the dismantling itself, Lomjaria wrote that the government has the right to dismantle the unauthorized constructions, but it is inadmissible for these processes to be carried out at the expense of human rights violations. The Office of the Public Defender will study the issue of the legitimacy of the process.