Georgian authorities are planning to tighten measures to reduce the growing number of Georgian asylum seekers in the Schengen countries, the Government’s press service reported on February 9.
The announcement was made following Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili’s emergency session with foreign, justice and interior ministers, as well as the State Security Service head and the Chief Prosecutor.
The Government’s press service said the meeting participants discussed “steps to be taken in the near future to prevent the number of [Georgian] asylum seekers in the EU member states from rising further, and to avoid hampering visa liberalization.”
“The Government pays due attention to the concerns of its partner states and plans to take important steps in terms of tightening legislation, intensifying cooperation with partner states, and conducting an active information campaign throughout the country,” it said.
The press service also reported that these measures, among others, would involve a set of legislative amendments, which will impose readmission costs to readmitted persons, toughen procedures for changing last names, etc.
Additionally, the Interior Ministry was tasked to strengthen cooperation with partner countries, specifically with respect to combatting organized crime. For that purpose, Minister Giorgi Gakharia will intensify visits to the EU countries, and will strengthen the work of police attachés.
On March 28, Georgia will be celebrating the one-year anniversary from the launch of the visa-free travel to the European Union, which enabled Georgian citizens with biometric passports to travel to the Schengen area for up to 90 days for business, tourist or family purposes.
Under its visa-suspension mechanism, the European Union may put off the visa waiver deal in one or more of the following cases:
- a substantial increase in the number of nationals of that country are refused entry to or stay irregularly in EU territory,
- a substantial increase in unfounded asylum applications,
- a decrease in cooperation on readmissions (returns of migrants), or
- an increase in risks or imminent threats to public policy or internal security related to nationals of the third country concerned.
As of February 5, more than 170 000 Georgian citizens had enjoyed visa free travel to the Schengen area.
According to the European Asylum Support Office, in December 2017, the EU member states, Norway and Switzerland received 1465 first time applications for international protection from Georgian nationals, an almost triple increase from the same figure last year (568 applications).