Belgium Removes Georgia From the List of Safe Countries of Origin

Belgium has removed Georgia from the list of safe countries. Belgium introduced the safe country of origin concept in 2012 and updates it at least once a year. However, the list can be reviewed if the situation in the country of origin has changed. Georgia was on the updated list as of April 7, 2023 and was removed from was the most recent updated version on July 10, 2023.

According to the Belgian Internal Federal Public Service: “Regarding Georgia, the opinion of the General Commissioner for Refugees and Stateless Persons is followed and not the opinion of the FPS [Federal Public Service of] Foreign Affairs.”

The decision states: “These criteria concern not only aspects of general policy (for example, the existence of democratic institutions, political stability) but also “the legal situation and respect for human rights” – both formal commitments made by a country (such as ratification of the ECHR) as well as their respect in practice.

The decision reads: “Although it is clear from the opinion of the Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons that reservations could be made about certain situations in certain countries, in particular concerning violence linked to gender and/or sexual orientation, this finding does not preclude placing these countries on the list, taking into account all relevant facts and circumstances” and stresses that “this overall assessment was carried out with great caution”.  

Salome Samadashvili, MP (“Lelo”), and former Ambassador of Georgia to the Kingdom of Belgium said regarding the development: “Belgium made a decision to grant refugee status to citizens of Georgia, as citizens of a country whose own government cannot protect them, through a simplified procedure.” She called the decision “alarming” in the context of the visa-free regime Georgia has with the EU and the importance of being on the list to maintain it. Samadashvili stressed that after Belgium’s decision, there is a serious risk that other [EU member] countries will follow suit, saying one of them might raise the issue of working out the mechanism to stop the visa-free regime with Georgia on the agenda of the European Union.

She also said: “The Russian government of our country is doing everything to ensure that Georgia is finally removed from the European orbit” while it is “applauding Vladimir Putin’s decision to introduce a visa-free regime with Georgia.”

Meanwhile, the GD lawmaker and Vice Speaker of the Parliament Giorgi Volski also commented on the changes to the list, saying:” I think the decision is somewhat related to the recent small-scale clashes, but at the same time it is political in its content.” He lamented that such a decision “brings joy to a certain part of the opposition” and said that the opposition “works in this direction and continues …to somehow bring additional negative information to Europe, however, the facts show that Georgia remains a tourist hub and a safe country.” He also said that this group “is working to somehow restrict the visa-free travel of Georgian citizens to Europe” and said that this “proved once again that Georgia has much more internal enemies than opponents in foreign format and space”.

The Safe Country of Origin status is one of the key tools in the process of granting asylum to foreign nationals. The country is considered safe if it satisfies several criteria, such as the legal situation in the country of origin, the application of the law, the general political circumstances, and the extent to which protection is granted against persecution and abuse.

This news was updated at 15:34 to include Vice-Speaker Volski’s comment.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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