IOM Showcases Project Success in Kakheti Region

Sanja Celebic Lukovac, Chief of Mission of IOM Georgia, Barbara Böni, Regional Director of Cooperation South Caucasus, Embassy of Switzerland in Georgia, and representatives from key government stakeholders meeting local government in Telavi municipality.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) recently organized a field visit to Kakheti region, specifically to Akhmeta and Telavi municipalities, to showcase the outcomes of the “Enhanced Opportunities for Returning Migrants in Georgia” project. This initiative, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and co-funded by the IOM Development Fund (IDF), is a testament to IOM’s commitment to facilitating integrated approach to sustainable reintegration for Georgian returnees and empowerment of the communities of return.

Sanja Celebic Lukovac, Chief of Mission of IOM Georgia, led the delegation, which included Barbara Böni, Regional Director of Cooperation South Caucasus, Embassy of Switzerland in Georgia, and representatives from key government stakeholders from the Ministry of IDPs from the Occupied Territories, Labor Health and Social Affairs of Georgia (MoLHSA), Agency of IDPs, Ecomigrants and Livelihoods Provision (Livelihoods Agency) and State Commission on Migration Issues (SCMI).

The group met with local officials, namely Mr. Aleksi Pitskhelauri, Mayor of Akhmeta Municipality and Ms. Pikria Kushitashvili, Deputy Mayor of Telavi Municipality and Municipal Service Hub counselors, who are instrumental in providing tailored support to returned migrants. The Municipal Service Hubs, strategically established by IOM in collaboration with local governments, serve as direct reference centers for returnees or to those migrants, still abroad, interested in returning.

Sanja Celebic Lukovac remarked on the collaboration with Akhmeta Municipality and the progress achieved with Swiss financial support, stating, “IOM has been cooperating with the Akhmeta Municipality since 2020 at the individual, community and structural levels. We are very proud of the progress we have achieved with the Municipality and with the financial support of our Swiss partners. A strong local municipality is key in ensuring effective migration management in the country. IOM will continue to cooperate with the local governments in building their capacity to manage the reintegration process for the benefit of local communities.”

Commenting on the visit, Barbara Böni recognized the critical need for reliable information and counselling for returned migrants and commended effective collaboration between IOM, local and national counterparts. “The SDC acknowledges the importance of providing returning migrants with accurate information and tailored counselling for their reintegration. We are pleased to back the IOM initiative, which collaborates effectively with local and national partners to address these needs. The work of Akhmeta's Municipal Service Hub, supported by significant involvement from the Akhmeta Local Government, is encouraging. In 2024 only, it has supported over 100 returning migrants.”

During the visit, the delegation learned firsthand from the municipal government about the project’s impact, such as the rehabilitation of the Sports Hall in Kistauri village, which now promotes a healthy lifestyle among local youth and contributes to community stabilization. Akhmeta municipality allocated significant co-funding from the local budget for the reconstruction of the allocated building for the sports hall. Discussions also centered on the digitalization and institutionalization of Service Hub functions.

The visit concluded with a meeting with Marina Raidt-Altunashvili, a project beneficiary, who decided to return after 20 years of leaving and working in Germany as a professional in musical therapy field. Marina runs a Musical Therapy Center “Legato” in Telavi and provides musical therapy sessions for various vulnerable and disadvantaged groups (e.g. children with disabilities/special needs, women victims of domestic violence, oncological patients etc.). The extension of this service is planned to the population of Akhemta and then Kvareli municipalities. For that purpose, the project provided the relevant professional instruments for the musical therapy sessions and office equipment and furniture. The center, established within the community revitalization initiative, is a shining example of the positive influence of the successful initiative on the local community.

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