The perilous condition of internationally displaced persons from Abkhazia

by: Sam Carley

On January 16th, 2022, 52-year-old Zurab Chichoshvili died in a suspected suicide in a Tbilisi housing facility for internationally displaced persons (IDPs). His death has underscored the treacherous situation that the hundreds of thousands of IDPs in Georgia find themselves in.

While Georgian Health Minister Zurab Azarashvilli has publicly stated that the death was being treated as an accident and should not be connected to the plight of IDPs in Georgia, Chichoshvili’s abysmal living conditions in the IDP facility make it difficult to separate his death from the wider IDP tragedy.

Over 200,000 Georgians were displaced during the 1992-3 war with the Republic of Abkhazia, a breakaway state on the Russian border. A second breakaway state along the Georgian-Russian border, South Ossetia, became embroiled in conflict with Georgia during the 1990’s and contributed to the displacement of roughly 100,000 Georgians. Continued violence in both breakaway states has only increased the number of Georgian IDPs in the years since. Most recently in December 2021, violent protests broke out in Abkhazia over the republic’s constitution and humanitarian issues.

The facilities for IDPs, like the one Chichoshvili lived in, are notorious for overcapacity and poor conditions. IDPs were placed in the facilities intended for short-term use, but as many IDPs in the Republic of Georgia have been displaced for nearly three full decades, they became long-term facilities without the necessary additions. Many of the facilities are fracturing, and residents worry about the potential for collapse. IDPs have protested these conditions unsuccessfully for years without acknowledgment from the Georgian government.

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