Local Chief Says Population is Leaving Gali

On February 28, Konstatin Pilia, the head of the local occupation administration of the ethnic Georgian-majority Gali district of Abkhazia, met Aslan Bzhania, head of the occupation executive, and shared his concerns about more people leaving Gali.

Pilia said the outflow began in 2015 due to “difficulties related to documentation.” An estimated 30,000 ethnic Georgians from Gali were deprived of political rights after the Kremlin-backed authorities stripped them of Abkhaz “citizenship” in 2014 and 2017 for fear of ethnic Georgians influencing the election outcome. Pilia argued that even though the exodus had accelerated because of the “lack of prospects for obtaining [Abkhazia] citizenship.”

Pilia cited the 2011 “census,” according to which there are about 30,000 ethnic Georgians in Gali, but currently, the employed population stands at 17,000 people, there are 5,863 pensioners who receive a pension under a “residence permit,” and 344 get pensions as “citizens of Abkhazia.” The census conducted under the occupation regime is widely considered unreliable both methodologically and as people have incentives to hide data.

Pilia said 137 children were born in Gali in 2023, but only 59 received birth certificates because most parents don’t have proper documentation. He added that the children who are left without documents have no prospect of obtaining them in the future. [Parents likely hold Georgian passports, and children were also likely registered in Georgia proper – Civil Georgia]. People who decide to leave for such reasons are difficult to identify, as they usually don’t cancel their residence registration. “People just leave,” said Pilia.

Local occupation administration reports that about 5,000 people living in Gali have only one document, the so-called “Form No. 9” (an ersatz ID normally issued as a temporary document in case proper identification documents are lost). 1,130 people have “Abkhazia Passports,” and 21,500 have so-called “residence certificates.”

Pilia also referred to 2022 regulatory changes that say that ethnic Georgians in the Gali district could obtain “Abkhazia Passports” by “restoring Abkhaz ethnicity,” i.e. by denying their Georgian identity, including by changing their last names. Pilia mentioned that these so-called laws haven’t come into force. The exiled Georgians had strongly objected to this “law,” calling it an  “unacceptable experiment on the Georgian population.”

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


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