TBILISI, DFWatch – A loud discussion broke out in parliament Thursday, as the human rights committee held a hearing about the status of internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Georgian Young Lawyer’s Association (GYLA) confronted members of the ruling National Movement party about a bill adopted on 27 December, 2011.

This bill changed the definition of ‘refugee’, so that this status is only given to those who have fled from the two breakaway regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia, not those from other areas that are not under Tbilisi’s control.

Members of GYLA expressed concern that people from buffer zones who had to leave their homes will be left without relevant statuses and help. According to GYLA, the government does not fulfill its obligations towards official IDPs and those not having official status as refugee will also be left without assistance.

On July 3, 2012, GYLA filed a suit with the constitutional courts on behalf of two Georgian citizens who are from villages which are not in the occupied regions and not controlled by Georgian law enforcing agencies either. GYLA insists that the exclusion of IDPs not from occupied territories breaks article 14 of the Georgian constitution. This article deals with equality.

Refugees also attended the session and were assured that they would not be left to themselves without help. Eka Kherkheulidze, who chaired the briefing, Tamar Martiashvili, representative of the IDP ministry, and Member of Parliament Emzar Gelashvili, stated that the state fulfills every obligation towards refugees.

Member of the faction Unity for Justice, Dimitri Lortkipanidze proposed to offer a special status to people from buffer zones and invited GYLA to discuss the issue with the faction before the bill’s second hearing.

The verbal exchange ended with Kherkheulidze reminding GYLA representatives “that the session is not their solo performance”.