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UN Sounds Alarm on Conditions in Georgian City

UN Sounds Alarm on Humanitarian Conditions in Georgian City

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today expressed concern over the humanitarian conditions facing people in and around the town of Gori, which lies just south of the border of the separatist region of South Ossetia.

Shelters in the city are stretched beyond capacity, with some 4,200 people from the buffer zone between Gori and the South Ossetian boundary registered as being internally displaced.

More than 1,000 people are taking refuge in a UNHCR-tented camp that was just set up five days ago, another 1,000 are staying with host families and roughly 2,000 others are spread out among nearly two dozen collective centres.

“Our initial assessment indicates that some 450 people arrived from their villages within the last week due to massive intimidation by marauding militias,” agency spokesperson Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva.

The remaining internally displaced persons (IDPs) were on their way home from the capital Tbilisi and other parts of the country where they had sought refuge during the conflict, but could not travel into the buffer zone beyond Gori.

The most recent arrivals, reportedly from the village of Beloti in the buffer zone, told UNHCR that more than half of its 200 inhabitants fled in the early stages of the crisis, which broke out on 8 August.

“Those who remained behind are now leaving due to beatings, harassment, looting and burning of houses,” Mr. Redmond said. “Some told UNHCR they had been travelling on foot and in hiding for more than two weeks before reaching Gori and the UNHCR-tented camp.”

Reportedly, 20 elderly and bedridden people remained in the village, and an IDP said that villagers left buckets of water behind for them before fleeing.

The uprooted have expressed anxiety over the future of their families, the safety of their villages and the conditions of their homes, harvest and livestock to UNHCR personnel.

Nearly 160,000 people were displaced during the conflict, with some 128,000 uprooted within Georgia. Most of the roughly 30,000 who fled to Russia have since returned to South Ossetia.


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