“It is difficult to have an IDP status whilst civil society is not properly developed. After the armed conflict of 1990s, IDPs’ integration into the rest of society has been one of the main problems in the country. Non-IDP community believed – it was a group of people – “refugees”, who have come from somewhere. I think, this negative opinion about IDPs is still a problem,” said Anuna Bukia.

Early in 1990s, people from Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region internally displaced as a result of armed conflicts in Georgia. According to the data from December, 2009, estimated number of IDPs from Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region was over 251 000 that made about 6% of the Georgian population. After the Russian-Georgian armed conflict of 2008, their number increased at 26 000.

Representatives of nongovernmental organizations working on IDPs’ issues state that alongside social and economic problems, IDPs have to cope with general negative feelings towards them.

Stigmatization of IDPs and general negative feeling about IDPs can be easily observed in terms and phrases used by the society with regard to this group of people. In Georgia, IDPs are often referred as refugees. This word has acquired quite negative context not to speak its wrong usage (refugee is a person migrated outside the country as a result of the conflict).

Psycho-therapist Sopo Tabagua has worked with IDPs for a long time. She said term “refugee” often degrades an IDP. “This word acquired a context of insulting word. Besides that, I have often heard: “They received cottages and what else do they need?!” the last phrase demonstrates attitude of other citizens towards IDPs. Internally displaced patients have often applied to me for help; they often complained that this status dishonored them because society has negative perception about them. It is very obvious and shallow stigma and it is often exposed in marriages. One of my patients, 19-year-old girls was humiliated by her mother-in-law because she was an IDP: “How could this refugee enter my family,” the mother-in-law was rebuking the girl.”

And why does society have negative perception about IDPs? Sopo Tabagua thinks society believes IDPs, the others, have invaded into their lives and threatened their peaceful life. Psychologist thinks, the main reason of negative feeling of the society towards IDPs is that entire nation has been traumatized. “There is phenomenon of the nation’s traumatization. Georgian society is gravely traumatized society, which has undergone traumas starting from April 9, 1989. When entire nation is traumatized, it is useless to speak that they will treat vulnerable groups, including IDPs, empathetically and tolerantly. Traumatized society is not capable to correctly treat others; there is a problem of negligence too. Society cannot assist IDPs because they cannot afford it because of endured traumas. So, society tries to get rid of them. It is sort of shield for the traumatized society to protect themselves. At first sight, society shall be sorry for IDPs but on the other hand society tries to avoid them fearing they will also share the tragedy and trauma of IDPs.”

After the armed conflict of August, 2008, when a new wave of IDPs appeared in the capital, you could see long queues of Tbilisi residents in compact residence premises; they supplied IDPs with cloths, food and other necessary items. Why did the hosting society have more positive reaction and feelings about IDPs in 2008 than they had after the armed conflicts of 1990s? Psychologists explain this fact and state that social conditions of the population had improved before 2008. In 1990s non-IDP population was more traumatized than after the 2008 war. After the last armed conflict, Georgian state did much more for IDPs than in 1990s – IDPs received shelters and compensations. After the armed conflicts of 1990s, state did not do anything for IDPs. Internally displaced people had to seek shelters in different regions of Georgia, their migration had chaotic character and their self-estimation happened at the expense of socially impoverished hosting society. After the war in 2008, IDPs problems less impacted the hosting society. Consequently, society was more tolerant towards new wave of IDPs.

Several nongovernmental organizations work for the defense of IDPs rights and for their integration into society. In this frame, an event took place in the office of the Human Rights House Tbilisi on December 4-5. With the imitative of the HRHT Media Center, lawyer Rusudan Mchedlishvili of the Article 42 of the Constitution trained journalists working on IDP issues in legal regulations of IDPs’ problems and implementation of the relevant law in practice. In the second part of the training, Psycho-Therapist of Psycho-Social Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims and head of Union Sapari Sopo Tabagua spoke with them about stigma and discrimination of IDPs. Next day of the workshop, Media Center organized a study trip to IDP settlements for the participant journalists in order to assist them to use theoretical knowledge received on the previous day in practice.

NGO representatives said their work for the reintegration of IDPs into society is not enough and cannot change general situation. Government’s involvement in the process is significant. What projects were implemented for the reintegration of IDPs by the Ministry of Refugees and what does the new administration of the ministry plan in this direction? We sent these questions to the Ministry of IDPs from Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees but they have not replied to us yet.

Salome Achba