Georgia's Other Refugee CrisisAs a result of the 9/11 terror attacks and President George W. Bush's pledge to root out terrorists wherever, whenever, much attention has been paid to the approximately 7,000 Chechen refugees gathered in the Republic of Georgia's Pankisi Gorge. Members of Al Qaeda have been rumored to be among them, prompting the United States to send in military advisors. But Georgia has an older and much larger refugee problem.
In September of 1993, Abkhazian separatists - supported by Russian planes, tank and artillery - finally pushed over 240,000 ethnic Georgians out of the Abkhazia region of northwestern Georgia, capping 18 months of intense fighting. More than 20,000 were killed in the conflict.
Almost nine years later, the refugees remain scattered throughout Georgia. Approximately 90,000 ended up in Tblisi, the country's capital. Ill-equipped to handle such a crisis, the government took space wherever it could be found - in hospitals, sanitoriums, and hotels. The Hotel Iveria, a Soviet-era luxury hotel, is now home to 1,100 refugees from the Abkhazian conflict. The government pays for the rooms and provides each refugee with a monthly stipend of 11 lari, about 5 dollars.
These are the stories of Tata, Malkhazi, Makvala and Beso -- four residents of the Hotel Iveria.
|All content copyright Nathan Martin, 2006 - 2013.|