Dimitri Lortkipanidze, director of the Primakov Georgian-Russian Public Center, said in the interview with online portal, Georgia and World on October 4 that the current pace of population outflow from Georgia was allegedly linked to visa liberalisation with the European Union.
Dimitri Lortkipanidze’s statement is not true, because visa-free regime with the European Union applies only to short-term tourist visits and does not involve travelling to the Schengen area for employment or other purposes for a long period. Therefore, it cannot encourage a citizen’s desire to stay in a Schengen country for more than 90 days.
Visa-free movement with the EU concerns the following categories:
Touristic, seeing family members/relatives, business-meetings, short-term educational and exchange programs/trainings, courses, participation in cultural or scientific events, medical treatment etc. Any of such visits should not exceed 90 days in duration; Visa-free regime allows the citizens of Georgia to carry out only short-term visits, with duration of 90 days in any given 180-day period, without visa; In case of intending to stay on the territory of an EU/Schengen zone member for a long period, the citizens of Georgia should address an accredited consulate of a respective country in Georgia for receiving visa;
Based on the data from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, as of October 20, 2017, more than 160,000 citizens of Georgia travelled to the EU with the benefits of the visa-free regime. Up to 400 citizens were denied the entry to the Schengen Area. Up to 10,000 citizens of Georgia did not return to Georgia after the expiration of the 90-days period. This number includes those who:
- Hold a residence permit in one of the EU countries or a double citizenship;
- Obtained the right to stay for a longer period after travelling in one of the EU countries (i.e. students, asylum seekers);
- Travelled to a third country (i.e. Ukraine, Belarus) and have not returned to Georgia from those countries.
The statistical data show that only one out of 16 travellers does not come back to Georgia.
According to the 2017 Migration Profile of Georgia, the emigration rate has increased over the last decade; it confirms that the situation had already been serious before the visa-free regime with the European Union entered into force.
Thus, linking the natural process of migration to visa liberalisation is artificial and manipulative and serves to promote the myth that visa-free regime allegedly creates a demographic threat to the country.
Prepared by Gvantsa Devidze