The government plans to tighten procedures for changing last names as part of its efforts to reduce the growing number of Georgian asylum seekers in the Schengen countries, and to avoid triggering the so called visa suspension mechanism.
The respective amendments bill, endorsed by the Government yesterday, restricts the right to change one’s last name to one time only, and requires the applicant to submit the request personally and validate the need for such change.
Those persons, who were deported/readmitted to Georgia less than five years ago, or who changed their last names after March 28, 2017, will be unable to change their last names, according to the draft bill.
These restrictions, however, will not apply to name change requests during marriage, divorce, child adoption, and paternity determination.
The Justice Ministry, which drafted the amendments bill, said the change would “prevent abuse of the visa-free regime by Georgian citizens,” and would “help identify individuals who committed crimes.”
“There have been cases when Georgian citizens committed crimes in the EU countries, but returned to Georgia, changed their last names easily and traveled back to the Schengen zone with new identities,” the Justice Ministry said.
Speaking at the Government session yesterday, Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said the bill was part of the government’s “complex plan” to address “the challenges and the problems” concerning the visa free regime abuse.
“We are tightening the regulations on name change … we are doing our best to avoid triggering the visa suspension mechanism, and this change is not the only step that we will take,” PM Kvirikashvili stressed.
Also on March 6, Interior and Foreign Ministry officials held talks with Christian Klos, head of the Migrant Law Division at Germany’s Interior Ministry, and Annett Gunther, the Commissioner for Refugees and Migration at the Federal Foreign Office.
In its press release of the meetings, the German Embassy to Tbilisi said the Federal Government was “greatly concerned” over the increasing number of Georgian asylum applications. It added Berlin sought to further deepen its “already close cooperation” with Tbilisi on readmission matters, and also noted that a person would be banned from entering the Schengen zone for several years, if his/her asylum application was rejected.
The Georgian government announced it would implement measures to reduce the growing number of Georgian asylum seekers in the Schengen countries after a number of European countries, including Germany, Iceland and Sweden, had communicated their concerns over the increased number of crimes and asylum seekers from Georgia, triggering doubts that the European Union would temporarily suspend the visa-free regime.
As part of its response measures, the government has also pledged to intensify police cooperation with European partners on fighting organized crime, and to carry out a nationwide information campaign.