On July 10, the European Commission has released its assessment of the fulfillment of visa liberalization requirements by Western Balkans and Eastern Partnership countries, including Georgia.
The report highlighted that while Georgia has put in place concrete measures to address irregular migration to the Schengen+ area and crime-related challenges, the country needs further immediate action to address these challenges, in particular the increasing numbers of unfounded asylum applications.
Noting that for the third year in a row, Georgia continued to be the main country of origin of asylum applicants among visa-free Eastern Partnership countries, the report says the number of applications lodged by Georgian nationals in the Schengen+ area increased by 9%, with 21,570 applications lodged in 2019 compared to 19,730 applications submitted in 2018.
The report noted that the asylum recognition rate decreased to 4.1% in 2019 compared to 4.7% in 2018; in the first quarter of 2020, 3,795 asylum applications were reported, which is 42% less than in the same period of 2019.
The document stressed that Georgia needs to address, in a more systematic way healthcare-related issues, which is one of the pull factors for lodging asylum applications in the EU.
Regarding the cooperation on readmission, the return rate in 2019 decreased to 52% compared to 65% in 2018, with 8,520 Georgian nationals effectively returned.
“Despite the decrease in the return rate, good cooperation on readmission continued and should be maintained,” the report said.
According to the report, between 2018 and 2019, the number of refusals of entry for Georgian nationals in the Schengen area increased by 17% from 3,805 to 4,435, while the number of Georgian nationals illegally staying there increased by 26% from 9,400 to 11,845.
The report also referred to public order and security, saying that organized crime groups from Georgia continue to be reported as “highly active within the Schengen+ area and play a significant role in organized property crimes.” It added that since the entry into force of the visa-free regime, “several EU Member States reported an increase of Georgian asylum seekers amongst criminals arrested.”
The report highlighted that Georgia “has reinforced its cooperation” on international law enforcement with Europol and strengthened the network of Georgian police attachés in the EU.
Stating that the country continues to implement anti-corruption reforms via its Anti-Corruption Strategy and Action Plan 2019-2020 reflecting anticorruption priorities in different sectors “some concerns of high-level corruption persist.”