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Georgia: Situation of internally displaced ethnic Georgians from the Abkhazia region; whether they have difficulty settling elsewhere in Georgia (1998-1999)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 March 1999
Citation / Document Symbol GGA31341.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Georgia: Situation of internally displaced ethnic Georgians from the Abkhazia region; whether they have difficulty settling elsewhere in Georgia (1998-1999), 1 March 1999, GGA31341.E, available at: [accessed 1 June 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Recent information (1998 and 1999) on the situation of internally displaced ethnic Georgians from the Abkhazia region and whether they have difficulty settling elsewhere in Georgia is scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. According to the Tbilisi, Georgia office of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) only a very small number of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Abkhazia are ethnic Abkhazians, with the rest being ethnic Georgians (23 Mar. 1999). According to Country Reports, 1998:

Over the past 4 years, the UNHCR estimates that more than 53,000 of the 283,000 IDP's and refugees from Abkhazia returned spontaneously, most to the southern part of the Gali district. However, in May [1998] the unstable security situation in Gali deteriorated into open warfare between the Abkhaz militia and Georgian partisans and MOI troops. The partisans were routed and, in the aftermath, almost all of the Georgian returnees fled once again as their homes were burned and looted by the Abkhaz. Reportedly 40,000 remain in and near Zugdidi on a more or less permanent basis. Only a few thousand subsequently have returned, many of them for short stays to look after their property.

According to the IOM conditions in other areas of Georgia for internally displaced persons from the Abkhazia region are generally difficult:

While the overall situation in Georgia has improved during the past three years, the conditions of IDPs remain in many instances critical. Over time, the infrastructural conditions of communal centres have deteriorated. In addition, there is evidence of a continued outflow from host families, who are overburdened into communal centres (1998, pp. 48-49).

The IOM report provides further information concerning conditions facing IDPs from Abkhazia settled elsewhere in Georgia:

The IDP's have been settled all over Georgia. The majority (123,538 persons, 42.6% of the total) are concentrated in the regions of Samegrelo (Mingrelia) neighbouring with Abkhazia; 26.7% (74,692 persons) live in the capital Tbilisi, and the others live in the cities of Kutaisi, Rustavi, Batumi, Gori and Tskaltubo. Over half of them (56.5%) are staying with relatives and friends whereas the rest are staying in hotels, rest houses and other state institutions. The bulk of this population do not have a permanent source of income, and survive thanks to petty trade and non-qualified physical work. A significant share of the children do not go to school. The social infrastructure is being severely strained by the presence of such huge numbers of IDPs. This pressure is particularly problematic in urban areas, where it aggravates existing social and economic problems (ibid.).

This is corroborated by the 1998 country report on Georgia of the U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR). For more detailed information concerning the situation of internally displaced persons from the Abkhazia region in Georgia please consult the August 1997 WRITENET paper by Catherine Dale, The Dynamics and Challenges of Ethnic Cleansing: The Georgia-Abkhazia Case available on REFWORLD.

According to the Website of the UNHCR, assistance provided to internally displaced persons in Western Georgia and Abkhazia was impeded by the recent conflict:

However, resumed conflict in Gali in May 1998, which resulted in the displacement of some 40,000 people from Gali to the Samegrelo region, has seriously affected UNHCR's programmes in Abkhazia. ... [V]oluntary repatriation will not be possible until sufficient and credible security guarantees for the returnees are in place. UNHCR works to ensure that internally displaced persons have access to local registration, farm land and other facilities which will, in turn, ensure their rights to citizenship (1999).

On 22 February 1999 it was reported that plans intended to facilitate the return of ethnic Georgians to Abkhazia were close to being finalized (Interfax 21 Mar. 1999). Although there were reports early in March 1999 that the repatriation plans did not have the support of the Georgian authorities (AP 1 Mar. 1999; Nezavisimaya Gazeta 3 Mar. 1999), later that month it was reported that ethnic Georgians had begun to return to the Gali district of Abkhazia (Prime News 14 Mar. 1999; Kavkasia-Press 4 Mar. 1999).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Associated Press (AP). 1 Mar. 1999. "Georgian President Criticizes Separatist's Plan for Refugees." (NEXIS)

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1998. 1999. Washington, DC: US Department of State. [Internet] [Accessed 29 Mar. 1999]

Catherine Dale. August 1997. The Dynamics and Challenges of Ethnic Cleansing: The Georgia-Abkhazia Case. (WRITENET/ REFWORLD)

Interfax. 21 February 1999. "Georgia, Abkhazia to Finalize Conditions for Refugee Repatriation." (NEXIS)

International Organization for Migration (IOM), Tbilisi, Georgia. 23 March 1999. E-mail.

_____. 1998. CIS Migration Report 1996. Geneva: International Organization for Migration, Technical Cooperation Centre for Europe and Central Asia.

Kavkasia-Press (Tbilisi, in Georgian). 4 March 1999. "Over 1,000 Georgian Refugees Return to Abkhazia, Abkhaz Side Says." (BBC Summary 6 Mar. 1999/NEXIS)

Nevisimaya Gazeta. 3 March 1999. "The Process of Returning Georgian Refugees to the Gali District of Abkhazia is Going Badly." (Defense and Security 5 Mar. 1999/NEXIS)

Prime-News. 14 Mar. 1999. "Significant Increase Reported in Number of Refugees Returning to Abkhazia." (BBC Summary 16 Mar. 1999/NEXIS)

United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). 1999. 1999 Global Appeal - Georgia. [Internet] [Accessed 29 Mar. 1999]

U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR). 1999. Country Report: Georgia. [Internet] [Accessed 26 Mar. 1999]

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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