The United Nations refugee agency says it is concerned about the humanitarian situation in and around the Georgian town of Gori, just south of the boundary with the breakaway region of South Ossetia. The UNHCR reports displaced people say they fled from marauding militias and are fearful about the future. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.
The UN refugee agency says shelters in Gori are overflowing and cannot hold any more people. It says it has registered about 4,200 internally displaced people, all of whom came from villages in the so-called buffer zone between Gori and the South Ossetian border.
UNHCR Spokesman, Ron Redmond, says some 12-hundred people are staying in the tented camp that was put up in Gori just six days ago. He says another three thousand are staying with host families or are dispersed in 22 collective centers in and around the city.
"Our initial assessment indicates some 450 people arrived from their villages within the last week due to massive intimidation by marauding militias. The remaining three-thousand, 750 IDPs were actually on their way back home from Tbilisi and other parts of Georgia where they had sought refuge during the conflict, but got stuck in Gori when they could not proceed into the so-called buffer zone," he said.
Redmond says the latest group of people who arrived from Beloti, a village in the buffer zone, said they left because of beatings, harassment, looting and burning of houses. He says they told UNHCR they had been traveling on foot and were in hiding for more than two weeks before reaching Gori.
"They also said some 20 elderly and bedridden people remained behind in Beloti because they were unable to walk. One of the IDPs said fleeing villagers left buckets of water by the bedsides of the sick and elderly before leaving. Our teams report that IDPs are deeply worried about the future of their families. Uncertain about whether or when it will be safe to return to their villages, they worry about their houses, their harvest, their livestock and how they are going to survive the winter," he said.
Nearly 160,000 people were displaced during the conflict between Georgia and Russia, which erupted on August 8. The vast majority of those who fled to the Russian Federation, some 30,000, have now returned to their homes in South Ossetia.
The UNHCR appeals to all sides of the conflict to respect humanitarian principles and international law, which forbids the targeting of civilians.