TBILISI, DFWatch – The pressure group Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) warns that a new, narrower definition of what it means to be a refugee could expose people to danger.

GYLA is appealing to parliament regarding a new bill initiated by the government which makes changes to the law about Internally Displaced Persons – Refugees, saying that the changes may harm the rights of the persons, to which the law applies.

According to the bill, ‘a person will be considered internally displaced persons from the occupied territories of Georgia [if he or she is a] Georgian citizen or non-citizen person permanently living in the country, who was forced to leave the permanent living, due to the endanger to his, his family member’s life, health, liberty, by the foreign country occupation, aggression and massive human rights violation.’

GYLA’s appeal says that the new definition decreases the number of persons, to which the law applies.

“It is limited to the internally displaced persons from the occupied territories, while after the war in 2008 many people were forced to leave their homes from non-occupied places – villages near the conflict zone (Zardiantkari, large Khurvaleti and other),” the statement says, explaining that these people cannot return home because of the lack of security guarantees, which is also confirmed by the Interior Ministry’s letters.

The author of the bill is the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia, which claims that the aim of the bill is to improve the shortcomings of the current law, the perfection of certain articles, as well as compatibility with the current situation in Georgia.

“The fact and reality is foreseen that the Georgia’s population was forced to move – displaced due to foreign aggression and occupation of Georgian territory,” the explanatory note of the bill says.

GYLA claims that such a definition of a refugee does not conform with United Nations’ Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.

“In case of adopting these changes, the above-mention people won’t be able to receive refugee status and accordingly won’t be able to use the social guarantees, which applies on the refugees,” the statement says, representing the rights of 70 displaced persons.

The changes may force people displaced from villages near the border to return back to places where they will be exposed to danger to their lives and security as a result of tying the refugee concept to people only displaced from occupied places.