The humanitarian situation in the occupied Akhalgori district has deteriorated sharply since the Chorchana-Tsnelisi crisis in August 2019, when the Georgian authorities opened a police post in the area under its control (in the village of Chorchana) in order to ensure the security of the local population. Tskhinvali demanded the abolition of the post as an ultimatum, but no agreement has been reached and Akhalgori and its population have been completely cut from the outside world.
Tskhinvali de-facto authorities’ policy towards Akhalgori residents has changed over time. As a result of the 2008 war and the occupation of Akhalgori, many local ethnic Georgians and Ossetians left the area. Some of them, however, soon returned. During the so-called presidency of Eduard Kokoity and Leonid Tibilov, the residents of Akhalgori were able to enjoy freedom of movement, although with obstacles. They could move to the rest of Georgia with special documents. Accordingly, they were able to enjoy the Georgian healthcare system, receive appropriate assistance and be involved in trade.
The situation sharply deteriorated after Anatoly Bibilov came to power. Education in the Georgian language has been restricted in schools, detentions on charges of crossing the so-called border have become frequent, bureaucratic barriers have been imposed for obtaining the right to movement. The situation was especially aggravated by the Chorchana-Tsnelisi crisis, after which the de facto authorities of Anatoly Bibilov restricted the freedom of movement of the Akhalgori population in order to exert pressure on Tbilisi. The complete isolation put Akhalgori in a humanitarian catastrophe, which serves to make the local population abandon Akhalgori and can be called a creeping "ethnic" cleansing.
Over the past year and a half, as a result of summing up different sources, we can conclude that the number of the Akhalgori population has decreased significantly. Locals do not have access to quality health services, which made their situation particularly difficult during the pandemic. At the same time, due to restrictions on freedom of movement, Akhalgori residents are unable to move to areas controlled by the central Government of Georgia and receive appropriate assistance. As a result, many families decided to leave the district.
At the end of 2020, due to the sharply deteriorating migration processes, the de facto authorities of Tskhinvali began to issue special movement permits. However, the process is difficult and discriminatory. The so-called black list of the de facto authorities includes about a hundred people, who, for unknown reasons, will not be able to get permits. Representatives of the de facto authorities have not made comments on the issue. It is worth noting that a large part of those on the list are employed in the public service.
Regardless of the motive of Tskhinvali's policy on freedom of movement, it is discriminatory and restricts fundamental human rightsas, as a result of which, the local population are forced to abandon the district.
In view of all the above, it is important for the Georgian authorities to mobilize the efforts of the international community so that the de facto authorities of Tskhinvali and the Russian Federation, which exercises effective control over this area, stop restricting the rights of the Akhalgori population. In addition, the Georgian Government must develop a special aid package for Akhalgori residents in a timely manner so that they can enjoy basic living conditions, in the light of the long-term isolation, without leaving their homes.