Does the European Union ask Georgia to Return the Deported Meskhetians?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Reading Time: 4 minutes


On March 15, 2023, Giorgi Kardava, the host at pro-Kremlin “Alt-Info TV” and the chairman of the “Conservative Movement” party, answered a question about whether the European Union is asking Georgia to return the so-called Turkish Meskhetians, noting that it was not Georgia that was responsible for this, but the Soviet Union, and that he is against the European Union, which would oblige the return of the Meskhetians and others to Georgia, and as a result, would change the demographic picture of Georgia.

Screenshot 1 7 Does the European Union ask Georgia to Return the Deported Meskhetians?

Giorgi Kardava: “First of all, the Georgian state did not contribute to the resettlement of the Turkish Meskhetians… It happened during the Soviet Union. According to this logic, a lot of people were deported from the territory of Georgia, Abkhazia, Adjara… during the Russian Empire, 150 years ago from the Ottoman Empire… according to this logic, we should return them all and this would change the demographic picture of the country. If the European Union asks us to do this, we especially do not want the European Union.”

The claim voiced by Giorgi Kardava, as if the European Union is forcing Georgia to return  the Meskhetians, is false. The European Union does not request the repatriation of any group to Georgia. As for the issue of Meskhetians, Georgia assumed this obligation in 1999, not from the European Union but the Council of Europe, and the main part of the obligation has already been fulfilled.

Joining the European Union would not require Georgia to repatriate any group of people. As the representative of the European Union in Georgia told “Myth Detector”, the EU does not interfere in Georgia’s (as well as member or candidate states) policies regarding the process of granting citizenship and/or residence.

Representation of the European Union in Georgia: “The European Union does not require its member states, candidate countries or potential candidate countries to allow or prohibit the entry and/or residence of any specific group of persons in its territory.”

Acceptance of applications for therepatriation of Meskhetians ended in2010. The government of Georgia has created the appropriate legal framework and administrative procedures to resolve the issue, by which many applicants were granted the status of repatriates. The issue of repatriation of Meskhetians is not evenmentioned in theAssociation Agreement.

Screenshot 2 5 Does the European Union ask Georgia to Return the Deported Meskhetians?
Meskhetians in the Fergana Valley, 1989. (Photo: Aleksandre Begiashvili)

The organization before which Georgia undertook the responsibility of repatriation of the Meskhetians was not the European Union, but the Council of Europe, which Georgia became a member of on April 27, 1999. During that period, Georgia was given a 12-year deadline to fulfill the obligation. It should be noted that the process of repatriation of Meskhetians to Georgia was ongoing even before the commitments were made in the Council of Europe.

The state has already fulfilled a large part of its commitments to the European Council. In a conversation with “Myth Detector”, migration law expert Irakli Kokaia, who worked on the issue of Meskhetians, said that Georgia has already fulfilled most of the recommendations, and the last recommendation only provided for the assessment of an independent expert, and there was no reference to the fulfilment of other remaining obligations, because there were no such unfulfilled obligations. It should be noted that the evaluation of the repatriation process by an independent expert has not yet been carried out.

According to Irakli Kokaia, approximately 5,841 adults applied to Georgia during the repatriation period, and the total number of applications, including minors, was up to 9,000. Out of this number, about 2,000 people were given the status of repatriates, and about 500-600 people were granted promised citizenship.

According to the Social Justice Center, a non-governmental organization, the small number of applications was caused by the complicated procedure created by the government, which made it difficult for many Meskhetians to request the appropriate status in Georgia.

Social Justice Center: “First of all, the Georgian authorities have not done much to provide the Meskhetians with information about legal procedures and opportunities to live in Georgia; Procedures established by law, including submission of documents in Georgian or English, also make it difficult for Russian or Turkish speakers to participate in this process; Even in Central Asia itself, many local organizations do not support the return of Meskhetians to Georgia, which exacerbates the problem of spreading information.”

The Soviet Union started the fight against the Meskhetians back in 1923 when the ethnically Georgian Meskhetians were recorded as “Azerbaijani,” and their Georgian surnames were changed to Azerbaijani. In 1944, about 150,000 Muslim Meskhetians were deported to Central Asia on the orders of Joseph Stalin. About 15,000 people died in the process of emigration.

Notably, the ethnic origin of the deported Meskhetians is a matter of dispute. Some scholars claim that the mentioned group was ethnically Georgian and underwent Turkification during the expansion of the Ottoman Empire. A certain part of scientists notes that the Meskhetians were ethnically Turks and were under Georgian influence. Today, some Meskhetians consider themselves Georgians, some Turks, and some do not have a distinct ethnic identity.

In 2007, the obligation to repatriate the deported Meskhetians took the form of a legal regulation, “On the Repatriation of Persons Involuntarily Displaced by the Former USSR from the Georgian SSR (The Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia) in the 1940’s.” The law states that the established repatriation system is based on the “restoration of historical justice.”

Myths about Meskhetians and manipulations voiced about the issue are rather frequent among the Georgian pro-Kremlin media. For more information, see the articles published by “Myth Detector:”

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Violation: Disinformation

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