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PACE rapporteur on the humanitarian situation in the Gali region: for better or for worse?

Strasbourg, 15.12.2011 – “The humanitarian situation in the Gali region has now reached a turning point, but whether the turn is for the better or for the worse depends on all parties involved,” said Tina Acketoft (Sweden, ALDE), rapporteur of the Migration Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), speaking at the end of a four-day visit to Georgia, including Tbilisi, Gali and Sukhumi. The fact-finding visit took place as part of preparation for her report “Follow-up on the humanitarian consequences of the war between Georgia and Russia: the humanitarian situation in the war-affected areas.”

“For the better,” said Ms Acketoft, “the security situation has improved. There are fewer security incidents around the administrative boundary line, the streets are safer and effective steps have been taken to tackle racketeering, bribery and corruption in the Gali region. This is encouraging, even if there is still some way to go.”

“For the worse, the situation of children and their education continues to be a major concern, particularly that of ethnic Georgian children,” said the rapporteur. “Children should be able to be educated in their mother tongue, particularly in their formative years, whether this is Georgian, Abkhaz, Russian or Armenian. As a minimum, in later years they should have the full opportunity to learn their mother tongue, if not receive education in it,” she added. “This is not political; this is simply in the best interest of the child.”

Ms Acketoft reported that “all was not bleak” in the Gali region, pointing to the prospect of additional official crossing-points of the administrative boundary line. “Such crossing-points would do a great deal to improve the daily lives of people in the region, in terms of their access to family, medical care and economic opportunities,” the rapporteur said. “For others, it would give them access to education, pensions and other rights.”

“Humanitarian issues are not limited only to the Gali region,” Ms Acketoft also commented. “There is a great need for confidence-building measures for the whole region, without which it will be difficult to solve all the humanitarian issues. One step that could go a long way to building confidence would be sincere efforts to solve the issue of missing persons. There are some prospects for progress on this matter, which must be encouraged.”