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Meskhetian Repatriation
ECMI Caucasus’ Programmes and Initiatives

Since 2003, ECMI Caucasus has become a leading institution on the issue of persons deported from Georgia while under the Soviet Union and their repatriation today. ECMI Caucasus' engagement related to Meskhetians and other groups deported from Georgia in the 1940s began with a large-scale research programme on Meskhetians conducted in 2004-06. The aim of the programme was to comprehensively study the conditions of Meskhetian communities in the nine countries of settlement (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Azerbaijan, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Turkey and the USA) and the degree of their local integration versus their desire to repatriate to Georgia or resettle elsewhere.

The research resulted in an authoritative volume on Meskhetians entitled The Meskhetian Turks at a Crossroads: Integration, Repatriation or Resettlement? (Berlin: LIT, 2007) edited by Tom Trier and Andrei Khanzhin. A Russian language version was also published under the title Turki-Meskhetintsy: Integratsiya, repatriatsiya, emigratsiya (St. Peterburg: Aleteiya, 2007). The book offers innovative insights as well as thorough documentation of the current life of the Meskhetians, while also identifying new approaches in finding solutions concerning their displacement. Accordingly, it is a useful and timely tool for practitioners involved in the Meskhetian repatriation process.

From early 2005 onwards, ECMI Caucasus has held several conferences and workshops in Tbilisi to enhance awareness on the issue. These efforts in July 2005 resulted in the establishment of an interagency expert working group under the auspices of the then State Minister for Conflict Resolution Issues, Giorgi Khaindrava, who also was the Head of the State Commission for Repatriation. The working group was facilitated by ECMI Caucasus and resulted in a draft law on repatriation following consultations with the Council of Europe. Although this draft was very different from the law that was eventually adopted by parliament in July 2007, the process served to bring renewed attention in Georgia to the issue of repatriation. Following the adoption of the law, a coordination group on repatriation of deported persons was convened consisting of the Council of Europe, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and ECMI Caucasus, which was later joined by the European Delegation to Georgia and the European Union Special Representative to the South Caucasus. While playing a key role in the coordination group, ECMI Caucasus has produced regular updates over the past two years on developments in relation to repatriation issues.

In 2008-09, ECMI Caucasus – in collaboration with IOM and funded by the Council of Europe – also carried out comprehensive information gathering on repatriation procedures among Meskhetians in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. From March 2010, ECMI Caucasus has supported the Refugees and Migration Division of the Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation of Georgia (MRA) with the processing of applications for repatriation submitted to the Georgian authorities. The project “Support for Processing of Applications for Meskhetian Repatriation,” funded by the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM), allows the MRA to employ 6 of 11 data operators over the period 1 March to 31 December 2010 without any allocated state funding. The overall objective of the project is to promote a fair and dignified repatriation process for the Meskhetians within the framework of the Law on Repatriation, which promotes respect for their human rights.