Georgia: A helping hand for deportees, but slim hope for jobs
|Publication Date||2 November 2006|
|Cite as||EurasiaNet, Georgia: A helping hand for deportees, but slim hope for jobs, 2 November 2006, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/46a4854b4a.html [accessed 20 May 2013]|
Molly Corso 11/02/06
Nearly a month after Russia began deporting Georgian citizens, the Georgian government is scrambling to offer assistance to the reported 1,000 deportees who have returned home. While a lawsuit is planned to address human rights violations, helping deportees recoup from the loss of jobs and income may prove a more ambitious task.
On October 31, Justice Minister Gia Kavtaradze announced that his ministry is preparing a case against Russia's deportation measures and will submit it to the Council of Europe's European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. During a meeting with journalists on Tuesday, Kavtaradze refused to discuss the lawsuit, citing court "principles" that prohibit commenting on incomplete lawsuits.
To prepare the case, the Ministry of Justice is working with a newly formed parliamentary commission charged with investigating human rights aspects of the deportations. According to Manana Nachkebia, an opposition member of the commission from the New Rights Party, information about the deportees and their experiences will be sent to unspecified international organizations and European courts. A hotline for deportees to contact the commission has also been opened, she added.
In addition to the lawsuit, the government has tackled the task of finding jobs for the 1,000 deportees. The deportations began after the Georgian government arrested four Russian military officers in late September on charges of espionage. Though the officers were later released, the deportations have continued. [For details, see the Eurasia Insight archive.]
According to Economic Development Minister Irakli Chogovadze, the deportees can be divided into two groups. "Basically, we have two types of people: one who have nothing left and we try to put them in contact with private companies; and a second category of people who have some money to invest," he said. "We give them information about investment projects, privatization projects."
The government-run Georgian National Investment Agency is overseeing the employment assistance program. According to director Merab Lominadze, the agency's extensive contacts with private businesses make it a perfect vehicle to assist the deportees. "We have an extremely well-developed network of contacts within the private sector. That means we can go directly to the employer and offer him someone who he could be looking for on the market," he said.
But Lominadze stressed that neither his agency, nor any other government body, is forcing companies to hire a deportee. "[W]e do not offer a job here. We help them, we support them to develop their... resume and to provide them with information," he said. Lominadze added that several Georgian companies have approached the agency to offer help, but declined to identify their names.
The agency has spent the past three weeks creating the "infrastructure" to make the program work, he continued. Bank representatives are on hand in the agency's office and in the Tbilisi mayor's office to consult with deportees about loans, transfer of funds from Russia and to provide information about financial services in Georgia. Trained personnel also offer help with resume writing, he said. So far, an estimated 100-150 deportees have come to the agency for assistance, according to Lominadze.
Private organizations like the Federation of Georgian Businessmen have also volunteered to help. According to the federation's executive director, Giorgi Isakadze, the organization is searching their databases – and those of their members – to find job vacancies suitable for deportees. Isakadze noted that many Georgians returning from Russia have a high level of experience by Georgian standards and should be more competitive in the job market. "I think a big part of them will have a job in Tbilisi or another part of Georgia," he said.
Progress, however, is slow. While Economic Development Minister Chogovadze mentioned "successes" in finding jobs for people, he could not give a concrete figure for the number of deportees hired. The Georgian National Investment Agency's Lominadze said that he knows of two cases of people finding employment.
Nor has any deportee to date invested in a private business or taken part in the government's privatization program. While interest in investment exists, according to Lominadze, he notes that it is not easy to move funds from Russia to Georgia. Even though official barriers do not exist, several member companies of the Federation of Georgian Businessmen have reported encountering "administrative barriers" at banks in Russia for money transfers to Georgia, Isakadze said.
Georgia's Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs is not involved in the government's employment assistance efforts, however. Gia Kakachia, head of the ministry's labor division, was pessimistic about deportees' chances of finding work. "There are no jobs for these people," he said.
Some opposition members argue that more could be done to help deportees, however. The New Rights Party's Nachkebaia argues that the government should also work to defend deported Georgians' rights to any property left behind in Russia, and should adopt a long-term economic liberalization plan to create new jobs.
The exact number of jobless Georgians is unknown. Unemployment figures in Georgia are infamously inaccurate; over the past year, estimates from different government and non-government sources have alternated from between 13 percent to 15 percent. Some unofficial sources have reported recent estimated numbers at over 20 percent.
Rising energy costs may restrain still further businesses' interest in taking on additional hires. Russian energy giant GazProm, which supplies Georgia with most of its natural gas, announced on November 2 that it will raise prices for gas supplies to Georgia from $110 per 1,000 cubic meters to $230 per 1,000 cubic meters as of 2007, the Russian news agency Interfax reported. "A lot of Georgian factories... should make new plans," the Federation of Georgian Businessmen's Isakadze said, referring to the higher costs of production.
To help alleviate the unemployment crisis, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili announced a job placement program this fall. The internship program, which was launched in September, promises government funding for a planned 50,000 people to take part in three-month apprenticeships in the private sector.
According to Lominadze, while the deportees will be able to participate in the internship program, there are no special training courses or projects geared specifically for them. "We don't want to highlight someone who has been deported; we don't want to say they are different because we have employment issues here as well," he said. "Everyone is in the same position to do business. Everyone is in the same position to get a job. What I am trying to do is get them to that position."
Even so, whether deportees will have luck getting those positions remains an open question. Concedes opposition parliamentarian Nachkebaia: "There are a lot of people out of work in Georgia and this just adds to it."
Editor's Note: Molly Corso is a freelance reporter and photojournalist based in Tbilisi.
Posted November 2, 2006 © Eurasianet