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 საერთო ცხელი ხაზი +995 577 07 05 63


Demolition of “illegal” houses by Tbilisi City Hall – repression against the homeless

Following up with the information released through media concerning the demolition of houses in Orkhevi, Tbilisi, Social Justice Center calls on the Tbilisi City Hall to immediately terminate the demolition and provide the victims with long-term housing and respective services.

Reportedly, Municipal Supervisory Service took to Orkhevi at 7 AM and by now it has managed to demolish five houses. The locals say these constructions were built by the homeless themselves. One of the community members has reportedly been residing in the area since 2013.

The act of demolition is a manifestation of a zero sensitivity routinely demonstrated by Tbilisi City Hall towards the homeless and at-risk groups. The City Hall justifies their decision by arguing that the houses were constructed without a permit, and they had to execute the law by demolishing “illegal” constructions.

The demolition of the houses in Orkhevi is not a stand-alone act but rather a manifestation of the repressive policy pursued by the Tbilisi City Hall. The other examples include the demolition of constructions in Tbilisi’s Africa district and multiple statements made by the Tbilisi City Hall regarding the upcoming demolition of buildings constructed without a permit. Against the backdrop of the absence of a universal housing policy and respective services, also, demonstrated inactiveness of both central and local authorities, many families are forced to resort to constructing houses without a permit or find shelter in various buildings. Preventing such actions and pursuing a punitive policy without offering alternative housing in the winter with C19 spreading rapidly, leaves the homeless and at-risk groups in dire situations and facing a life threatening risk.

Importantly, repressive measures against the homeless is coupled with an extremely flawed and underdeveloped legal framework. While eviction has been made subject to a moratorium in light of C19 crisis, the existing system, turning a blind eye to international standards, does not qualify demolition and removal of people as eviction and portrays these houses as violations of construction-related legislation ignoring human-rights based approaches while making and executing respective decisions even when these decisions result in people ending up in the streets. Moreover, based on the changes adopted by the Parliament in 2020, those accused of illegal construction, may be subject to not only administrative, but criminal responsibility as well.

Once again, we call on the Tbilisi City Hall to immediately terminate the process of demolishing houses under the pretense of execution of the law and acknowledge their duty to provide social protection and accommodation for the most vulnerable. It is paramount that the City Hall together with central and local government bodies, as well as with other relevant stakeholders develop a viable housing policy and start providing relevant services conducive to human dignity. Under no circumstances shall the local authorities turn a blind eye to socially vulnerable communities and put them under a greater risk threatening their lives and health.

Therefore, we call on the Tbilisi City Hall to

  • Immediately stop the process of demolishing houses in Orkhevi and launch work for identifying and responding to the needs of those residing in this type of accommodation
  • Assess needs of those affected by the demolition and ensure the access to relevant support mechanisms including adequate housing.
  • Take into consideration, and abide by internationally recognized human rights standards while making decisions with regard to demolition and eviction, and in the process of executing such decisions.

The Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labour, Health and Social Protection of Georgia

  • Develop a national housing strategy with a respective action plan in the shortest period of time possible which, in parallel to establishing a general legal and institutional framework for the fight against homelessness, will minimize and prevent the practice of eviction including demolition.

The Government and Parliament of Georgia

  • Recognize an act of removal of persons from accommodation as a form of eviction and make it subject to moratorium
  • Fully harmonize the legal framework, as well as policy and practice relating to eviction with the international human rights law.

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