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Reports of lawlessness creating new forcible displacement in Georgia

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Reports of lawlessness creating new forcible displacement in Georgia

26 August 2008 Also available in:

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

GENEVA - The UN refugee agency has called on all parties to the conflict over South Ossetia to make their best efforts to contain further outbreaks of lawlessness which could contribute to additional displacement. In this context, UNHCR on Tuesday expressed concern over reports of new forcible displacement caused by marauding militias north of the Georgian town of Gori near the boundary line with the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Up to 400 displaced people gathered in Gori's main square during the day after being forced to flee their villages. According to individual accounts from displaced people reaching UNHCR in Gori, several of the displaced had fled fighting in the region earlier this month and had just gone back to their farms and villages over the weekend. Others included elderly people who had remained in their homes throughout the conflict, but had now been forced to flee by armed groups. The newly displaced said that some had been beaten, harassed and robbed, and that three persons had reportedly been killed. The marauders were reportedly operating in the so-called buffer zone established along the boundary line with South Ossetia.

UNHCR staff in Gori were assisting local authorities in erecting a small tented camp on the edge of the town so the displaced would have a place to stay Tuesday night.

Following three weeks of emergency relief operations, UNHCR's work in Georgia is now entering a new, post-emergency phase, giving greater emphasis to its protection mandate and the search for durable solutions. This is all the more complex as the situation on the ground is very dynamic and unpredictable with the continuing movement of people. UNHCR teams will continue to closely monitor the numbers and the character of any new, potential displacement in the region.

At its height earlier this month, the crisis generated more than 158,000 displaced - 128,000 within Georgia and some 30,000 who fled to the Russian Federation. Prior to the latest crisis UNHCR has been working on behalf of some 220,000 previously displaced people in Georgia, in addition to its mandated tasks on behalf of refugees, returnees, asylum seekers and stateless people.