UNICEF to assist Georgia in relocating children from orphanages amidst allegations of abuse
UNICEF is ready to assist the deinstitutionalization of children in Georgia and help the Georgian government to transfer them from large orphanages to family and community-based institutions, following allegations of abuse in orphanages run by the Georgian Patriarchate. However, in its statement, the Georgian office of UNICEF did not specifically mention the Ninotsminda boarding house which is currently investigated for violence and sexual abuse of minors.
The Ninotsminda boarding school in the mountainous region of Samtskhe-Javakheti run by the Georgian Patriarchate has recently become the center of a big scandal. The administration of this orphanage prohibited human rights defenders and social workers from visiting the children residing there, claiming that “these are the same people who demand the legalization of same-sex marriages”.
It was later revealed that four criminal cases of alleged violence against children and sexual abuse of minors in the orphanage had been launched over the past five years.
After mass protests on June 5, the court decided that the children should be relocated from Ninotsminda boarding house into their biological or foster families, or to family-type homes. As of right now, 26 children and adolescents had already left the church boarding house. This has been pursued over the past week by most Georgian human rights defenders and representatives of the civil sector, based on several ongoing criminal cases on alleged violence against children.
However, the patriarchate considers the court’s decision biased and intends to appeal, stating that it “will not allow the liberals to enslave society”.
UNICEF said in a statement that the relocation of children from institutions should be carried out carefully and the best interests of the child remain a priority. The best solution, according to UNICEF, is to return the children to their families and provide them with appropriate support.
UNICEF also calls for ensuring that only professionals with the appropriate knowledge and skills are handling the transfer of children to families or other institutions.
“Investigations into alleged physical or sexual abuse of children must be carried out promptly, and the children involved must be protected: trauma and victimization must be avoided at all costs”, UNICEF said.
“UNICEF will support evidence generation of the push and pull factors for children’s institutionalization, assist relevant actors in the development of the de-institutionalization action plan, its implementation and will support the strengthening of family support services”, UNICEF said in its statement.
Facts and figures
● More than 10,000 teenagers in Georgia have never gone to school.
● In 2020, the population of Georgia spent the least money on education.
● According to the National Statistical Office of Georgia, among the emigrants who left Georgia in 2015-2019, the majority were women aged 25-29. Many left small children at home.
● 15% of school-age children in Georgia do not have access to the Internet. This is especially important in the context of the pandemic and distance learning.
● 50,400 children between the ages of three and 17 do not have a computer.
● In 2020, more than 20,000 families with children became lost their income and were forced to apply for social benefits. In January 2020 152,353 minors received government support but by the end of 2020, only 186,131 children became recipients of state aid.
● According to the UNICEF Population Welfare Survey of 2017, 6.8% of children in Georgia live in extreme poverty with a household income of less than three lari a day [less than $ 1].