The European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA) on 18 August published its Migration Drivers Report on Georgia as a Country of Origin, which found that “the invasion of Ukraine has been a key factor influencing the increase in Georgian nationals applying for international protection” in the EU and Associated Countries (EU+ countries).
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has had – and is predicted to continue to have – significant economic and socio-political impacts in Georgia,” the report underscored in that context.
It noted that since Russia invaded Ukraine, Georgia has received an estimated 24,000 Ukrainians, as well as 35,000 Russians, and 15,000 Belarusians. “This is reported to have contributed to rent prices in the capital Tbilisi… further impacting the cost of living in Georgia,” the report added.
It also highlighted that inflation is high in Georgia, driven by “significant rises” in food and non-alcoholic beverage prices and that while unemployment rates declined slightly, they continued to remain high at 19% in the first quarter of 2022.
Data on Applicants
The report denoted that in the first four months of 2022, EU+ countries received 8,075 asylum applications from Georgian citizens, which amounted to a 183% increase in the number of applications when compared with the same period in 2021 when 2,855 applications were filed. Significantly, 9 in every 10 applications were from first-time applicants.
The report stated that from the applications, 390 Georgian nationals were granted temporary protection status in EU+, which “is a special status available only to individuals who have been displaced due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
In fact, it was the most common form of international protection granted to Georgians in that time period and outnumbered the total number of positive decisions granting refugee status (80), humanitarian status (160), and subsidiary protection status (35).
The main countries which received Georgian asylum claims remained unchanged compared to the previous year, with France, Germany, and Italy receiving nearly four-fifths of all Georgian applications. Ireland became the fourth largest receiving country in 2022 with 420 received applications, which is significantly more than the 25 applications filed by Georgians in 2021 although no reason has yet been determined for the increase.
According to the report, in the first quarter of 2022, 42% of EU+ asylum applications by Georgian nationals were submitted by female applicants, which is an increase from 39% in 2021. The age profile of applicants remained the same as in 2021, with 22% of applicants being under 18, 35% between 18-24, 41% between 35-64, and 1% over the age of 65.
Characteristics of migration abroad from Georgia varied by region of origin the report stated and denoted that individuals from Adjara and Guria regions commonly migrate to Turkey for labor purposes. Meanwhile, those from urban areas like Tbilisi, Rustavi, and Kutaisi, “generally displayed more varied and complex migrations patterns, often focusing on EU countries for employment, study, and asylum-related purposes.”
Importantly, the report highlighted that “there is no evidence of a widespread use by Georgian nationals of migrant smuggling networks between Georgia and the EU+.”
Regarding internal politics, it highlighted that Georgia has been “politically challenged.” The report pointed out that while the ruling Georgian Dream party won the October 2020 elections, the results were “staunchly contested by opposition parties, leading to months of political paralysis.”
It referenced the EU-brokered April 19 agreement that appeared promising in bridging the gap between the ruling party and the opposition but noted that Georgian Dream ultimately pulled out in July 2021.
The report took note of the mass demonstrations which took place in Georgia in June and July 2022, including a gathering of more than 100,000 people on June 20 in support of the country’s EU aspirations, as well as a follow-up protest on 3 July which called for the government to resign for its “failure to obtain EU candidate status.”
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It underscored protestors’ demand for ex-Prime Minister and ruling party founder, “Bidzina Ivanishvili to relinquish the executive power he maintains in the country,” and highlighted that as of June 2022, at least four cabinet members are close associates of Ivanishvili, including PM Irakli Garibashvili.
On human rights, the report noted that Georgia was classified as ‘partly free’ by Freedom House in 2022, with a score of 58 out of 100, and that it significantly declined in press freedoms ranking in 2022.
Building on its concerns over press freedoms, the report highlighted events like July 5-6, 2021, homophobic pogroms, in which more than 50 journalists were brutally assaulted by far-right mobs whilst covering Tbilisi Pride March. It also pointed out that the European Parliament passed a staunchly critical June 7 resolution on violations of media freedom in Georgia.
Occupied Tskhinvali/S. Ossetia and Abkhazia
Regarding Georgia’s occupied Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the report noted that “no significant conflict” has taken place in Georgia this year and that the occupied regions continue to remain outside of the control of the Georgian government.
It did take note of a video that emerged in March 2022, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, of armed men calling for the violent recapture of the occupied regions.
While it noted that the “video has been dismissed by some as an intentional provocation” it emphasized that it remains significant because “it demonstrates the nature of potential misinformation likely to be employed within the country following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
Read the full report here.