Disinformation that there is a colossally large number of refugees and asylum-seekers in Georgia, posing the greatest risk to the country’s security is mostly disseminated in Georgian discourse by ultra-nationalist and openly pro-Russian actors. They reinforce an opinion that an indefinite number of refugees and asylum-seekers are taken in and try to equate persons under international protection with criminality and terrorism.
One of the first messages voiced in this context was made by Dimitri Lortkipanidze, member of United Democratic Movement, who linked receiving refugees with the process of integration with the European Union. He stated that based on the readmission agreement concluded with the European Union Georgia undertook a commitment to take in Syrian refugees.
|Dimitri Lortkipanidze, United Democratic Movement:||Giorgi Lomaia, Alliance of Patriots:||Davit Tarkhan-Mouravi, Alliance of Patriots:||Sandro Bregadze, Georgian March:|
|“It is possible that based on this very agreement [the EU readmission agreement] and commitments, within eastern partnership, the European Union might request Georgia to take in an influx of Syrian Refugees.”||“When they come, well, for example, from Syria, right? Means they come from Arabic countries; when there is some influx of refugees there is probably 15-20% of refugees that belong to those terrorist organisations that need certain period in some country so to say to hibernate and when they receive instructions they get active again and organise terrorist acts on that territory.”||“The government is acting on the plan of Bokeria/Kobakhidze/Mdinaradze. It takes in many refugees and destroys Georgia. This is natural since neither Bokeria, nor Kobakhidze nor any of these people understand national consciousness and what nationality is at all.”||“Irakli Kobakidze has stated that camps should be built to take in Syrian and Iraqi refugees.”|
11-17 January 2016
|Obiektivi, Night Studio,
4 April, 2018
|Obiektivi, Night Studio,
11 მაისი, 2018
16-22 April, 2018
According to the 2017 data of the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia, presently, there are 1,477 persons benefiting from international protection in Georgia. In 2012-2017, 6,457 persons sought asylum cumulatively. Out of this number, only 1,505 applications were upheld. A refugee status is granted to a person who has well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. Georgia ensures legal protection of refugees in accordance with the commitments under the 1951 Geneva Convention.
According to the 2017 data, in Georgia, 215 persons were granted refugee status and 1,027 persons were granted humanitarian status. There are 235 persons under temporary protection. In total, there are currently 1,477 persons benefiting from international protection in Georgia.
If we have a look at the statistical data of 2012-2017, in these years, asylum was sought by 6,457 persons in total. It is evident from the data that in 2014, compared to the previous years, the number of asylum seekers considerably increased. This was preconditioned, on the one hand, by the war started in Ukraine and illegal occupation of Crimea by Russia and, on the other hand, by the ongoing armed conflicts in Syria and Iraq. In 2014, 419 citizens of Ukraine sought asylum in Georgia.
Table 1. Asylum-seekers in 2012-2017
In 2012-2017, in total 1,505 individuals were granted asylum. Out of this number, 237 were granted refugee status and 1,268 were granted humanitarian status.
In regard to refusal to grant asylum, the trend of increasing refusals is noticeable in 2012-2017; in total, 1,580 persons were denied asylum. In 2,845 cases, the procedure of granting asylum was discontinued due to various reasons.
Table 2. Refusal to Asylum
Concerning Persons with Refugee Status, Humanitarian Status and Those Under Temporary Protection
In Georgia, issues related to refugees are governed by the Geneva Convention and the Law of Georgia on International Protection.
Under the Geneva Convention, refugee status is granted to someone who:
- “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion;
- is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country; or
- not having a nationality and being outside the country of his/her former habitual residence because of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”
The Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia issues to a person with refugee status a temporary residence card and a travel document for refugees for a term of three years. It should be noted that a person can be denied refugee status if there are sufficient grounds to believe that he/she will endanger the state security of Georgia, its territorial integrity or public order.
- Humanitarian status is granted to an alien or a stateless person who does not comply with the conditions for granting refugee status but there is a real risk that upon returning to the country of origin he/she will face death sentence, torture, degrading or inhuman treatment, a serious individual threat to the life due to indiscriminate violence, international or internal armed conflict or mass violation of human rights; and
- The status of a person under temporary protection is granted to people entering en masse, who require international protection and cannot return to the country of their origin due to violence, aggression, international or internal armed conflict, or due to mass violation of human rights.
To this date, there are 235 citizens of the Russian Federation under temporary protection. In 1999, due to the warfare conducted by Russia in the Chechen Republic, the applications of Russian citizens seeking asylum became large-scale. Therefore, the Georgian authorities applied the principle of group determination of status on a prima facie basis.
Legal Protection of Refugees
The basis for legal protection of refugees is the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. It is highlighted in the convention’s preamble that one of its main goals is to assure refugees the widest possible exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms, and human beings shall enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms without discrimination.
Georgia, as a subject of international law, undertook the obligation to protect asylum-seekers, refugees and humanitarian status holders in 1999 when it acceded to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
Prepared by Guram Mamporia
Myth Detector Lab